CLOWN, MASKS, GROTESQUE/BOUFFON
Many teachers of clown focus primarily on discovering 'the inner clown' and developing an open relationship with the audience. From my own own experience in performance I have found that there are at least three or four personae in which I can be funny. So, although one must start with identifying and clarifying the most obvious , I find it unhelpful to limit possibilities to one, especially because it may become less appropriate as the the performer matures. I also refrain from using the usual red nose in clown training. Nowadays it carries with it too much cultural baggage and creates restrictive expectations. However, I do use 'carnival' noses of various shapes and sizes that are selected to suit the shape of the performers face. These mini-masks support the performers while they make themselves foolish and vulnerable. Another aspect I focus on is creating material using slapstick , problems with objects, partners and bodies or by failing at a recognisable performance. The final area is the comedy of absurd juxtapositions and parody; this are leads into grotesque and bouffon forms.
As with clowning , the study of masks is useful, both as a means to acquiring physical awareness and precision as well as to the specific end of mask performance. They bring to light the issues of combining technical physical expression with emotional expression. The study of Neutral mask allows the performer to become aware of all the subtleties of their body language as well as helping to reveal aspects of their identity. Becoming aware of personal habits, tendencies and 'imperfections' is an efficient approach towards a clown persona. Anyone who feels they have 'done' Neutral mask has not been able to appreciate the endless profound exploration that it opens up. The naievety of Larval (Basle) masks is another approach to clown. The connection between their shape and movement is a particularly useful as a step towards abstract sculptural performanc . Most of my half-masks have the exaggeration of cartoons or Commedia del Arte. Using the 'contre-masque' I use them to approach characters with depth as well the amplified physicality which is useful in street performance.
This is a huge subject with many entry points and outcomes. Using my research into the carnivalesque and popular forms, I have expanded out from the bouffon style. It begins by identifying those fears - personal, cultural and universal that affect individual students. Using parody, inversions and other kinds of 'making fun' lighten their impact of fears. This touches on wider issues of culture and politics - Boal's 'cop in the head' or , as academics put it, internalised hegemony. The 'making fun of all' helps to avoid any serious didacticism. The abandonment of logic and linearity further breaks down known performance formats.