Clowns frequently claim to access authenticity by unmasking social conventions or exposing the workings of performance genres, thus presuming power within society as taboo-breakers and truth-tellers.
Contemporary clown’s version of this tale stresses the dynamics of the ‘flop’ as the gateway to such truth. The performer, admitting failure to convince the audience of his/her competence, seems thereby to reveal a reality behind the mask of convention. By owning one’s flops, one is identified with ‘truth’, since to make a mistake must, by definition, be unintentional (i.e. they escape manipulation).
However, the professionalisation of clowning indicates that this unintentionality is in fact willed, practised and skilled. The ‘flop’ is an ‘authenticity-effect’ which stages ‘reality’. Given that clowns habitually admit to conventions, how might one declare this particular ‘truth-trick’?
Would such a ‘deconstructed clowning’ still seem like clowning and give the same pleasure as that staging of the authentic which clowns presume to do?
‘The Deconstruction of Clowning’ is a performance and discussion which takes place on Thursday 3rd October at 7pm and Friday 4th October at 2pm and 6pm, at Central School of Speech and Drama, London.
Jon Davison has been a clown performer, teacher, director and writer for the last 30 years. He is co-Director of Studies at the Escola de Clown de Barcelona and a former AHRC-funded Creative Fellow at CSSD. He has performed at festivals, theatres, tents, streets and bars throughout Europe. His first book, ‘Clown: Readings in Theatre Practice’ was published in 2013 by Palgrave Macmillan, for whom he is now preparing a ‘Clown Theory and Practice’ on clown training.