Day 4 of Clowns at Gauiler (locked up with Covid and via Zoom)

I’m getting used to being locked away from the class by now. I’m still not particularly happy with it, but what can you do!?

Day 4 was one of those days in Philippe’s class where the students didn’t achieve what he was trying to teach.

From those in the class I’ve talked to, this generated a gloomy feeling. A general feeling among the students that “We’re not getting this.”

This is actually an interesting thing to view from the “outside” (via Zoom) as I am. I can see it from more of an objective perspective than if I was sitting there in the class myself, worrying that I too was failing to “get it.”

The main exercise in Philippe’s class was:

  • Two clowns come on stage. The classic entrance in Clown is that they run in a circle, looking at the audience and each other. As you would in a circus ring.
  • The music stops and they have an interchange.
  • There were 2 variations:
    • 1. The two clowns chose an accent from around the world. And they spoke in gibberish to each other with that accent.
    • 2. The two clowns conversed with each other “in the style of children playing at being adults.”
  • There was also an instruction about the clowns “having a secret together” but we never made it far enough into the exercise to reach this.

This seems like a pretty simple exercise.

Simple but, of course, not easy to do.

As Clowns, you needed to capture the playfulness and innocence of children, while also speaking loudly so that the audience could hear you… and maintaining all the basic performance skills that we learned in the Le Jeu course.

Most couples were stopped during their entrance run around the stage.

Most of the time, the reason Philippe stopped them was that they were not enjoying being on stage.

It was interesting seeing people falling down at the basics. Things we’ve been working on for 4 weeks here. If you’re not showing pleasure on stage, speaking loudly, being lovable and beautiful, showing complicity with your stage partner… Philippe will send you off even if these are not the core teachings of the specific exercise in progress.

Basics like “speaking over each other” during a dialogue.

Philippe’s expression for this was “When you start to speak, don’t dribble on the balls of your friend. When they finish speaking, then you start to speak.”

And things like “having a pleasing voice.”

Quite a few people were sent off because of having a “horrible voice.”

When trying to be funny, it’s intriguing that so many people seem to revert to doing a squeaky voice like Mickey Mouse or Punch from Punch and Judy.

This has happened quite a few times.


Why would a squeaky voice be funny? It’s so often annoying.

In a classic Philippe interchange with the audience he posed it as:

Philippe: “These two voices, they were absolutely awful? Or [do you say] ‘Philippe, I could listen to them for 4 weeks without sleeping?’ Or *No*. Not 4 weeks, not 4 minutes… 4 seconds is my maximum?””
Student in the audience: “4 seconds is my maximum.”

(Note that Philippe often pronounces *No* in a way similar to “Neoooo” which is hilarious. Impossible to capture in writing, but it’s one of those little vocal flourishes he uses to build humor into everything he says. An intentional mispronunciation for comic effect… and one that, I assume, is indelibly printed on the eardrums of all Gaulier alumni.).

In the end, I could see he became exasperated by the fact that nobody was nailing the exercise. He moved on to the “copy the sound” exercise we had done in Le Jeu…

Which is always a fun game, and I actually saw Philippe laugh a load of times during it.

I guess that moving on to this exercise was the teaching equivalent of “saving the laugh” or “saving the show” that Philippe is teaching us to do in Clown…

If it’s not working, change.

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