Monday 22 July 2019

Research workshops - Friday Flop Research and Development Project (March-July 2019)

As part of our Arts Council-funded R&D exploring new forms of clown performance, we're looking at how to bring some of the experimental outcomes of workshop training onto the public stage. In this session we will share some of our processes and engage in some practical research with those who wish to join us (or you can just observe). The focus will be on mixing modes of performance and how clowns might intrude into other genres.
The session will be led by Jon Davison and members of Citizens of Nowhere, who produce the monthly performance Friday Flop at 
Rosemary Branch
June 22nd: Clowning Experiments
at Rose Bruford College
This practical workshop will engage participants in our ongoing research into how to use traiing exercises as performance material. We will be inviting participants to experiment with specific exercises which we have yet to find way of staging. Hopefully, our joint roles as researchers and guinea pigs will merge!
We have particular questions about how to take advantage of some of the impactful outcomes form exercises such as:
- "Attention Seeking"
- "Instant Impact"
- "Make a Loud Noise when you have the opportunity"
Friday Flop invites you to join us for a day of practical workshops, discussions and experiments

Friday Flop is about clowning research into laughter response and using workshop training exercises to make theatre.

We have loads of questions – We guess you do, too - Maybe we can answer each other’s questions?

Questions like:
• How to reproduce on the stage the best shit you came up with while devising, training or rehearsing?
• How to keep the bad shit (fears, stress, habits) out of the way and just engage with audiences in the way you want?
• How can we turn exercises into performance? Bring your exercises!

Join us on Sunday 21st July between 11am and 5pm at the Rosemary Branch Theatre

Where we’ll spend the day exploring these questions through
• Workshops
• Discussions
• Experiments and yet to be imagined ways of sharing

The day is open to anyone who finds these questions interesting, whether you use clowning or not.
And it’s free of charge

Plus: if you learn nothing, you’ll get a full refund

Venue details: Rosemary Branch Theatre, 2 Shepperton Road, London N1 3DT
Nearest stations: Essex Road, Haggerston

If you would like to participate, please let us know by emailing Jon Davison here: 

July 17th: Commuity Arts Clowning
at Kentish Town Community Centre
In collabortaion with NorthLDNCares, a talk, a workshop, a chnace ot have a go at clowning in the context of one of the many social club events organised by designed to bring neighours together, of all ages. 
Clowning is accessible to aoslutley anoyne. There are no limits in terms of age, physical ability, experience, education, etc. 
A chance to see if the clown trianing exercises we use profesisonally can also work for anyone who wnats to enjoy the pleasure of being silly in front of their friends and neighbours, or simply to be an audience for those who wish to!
Is clowning still a truly popular art?
We invite you to spend the afternoon with us engaging in experimental clown training practice as research.

We are in the midst of an Arts Council-funded R&D project investigating the relationship between performer training and live performance. Our main questions are around how to reproduce on public stages some of the biggest impact outcomes which occur in the training studio.

We have been working with performers, trainers, researchers and other practitioners with an interest in engaging with our ever-expanding list of questions, by participating in some of our ongoing experiments in transferring training to performance.

Some of our questions currently are:
- How can we navigate from the studio to the stage?
- How is training useful?
- What are we training to do?
- How can training exercises be redesigned for clown purposes?
- What are ‘clown choices’ in performance?
- How can we cause imbalance or uncertainty such that the unexpected might occur?
- How do we learn clown?

The session will take place in RR6 and is open to all RCSSD staff, students and alumni
If you’d like to know more, please contact Dr. Jon Davison
Clowning research today (22nd July 2019)

I am interested in the genealogy of training exercises and the way in which they transmit ideological assumptions through practice.

This interest began to be explicit in my research which re-examined clown training and the dominant orthodox notions of the personal clown, spontaneity, authenticity, etc. (AHRC-funded Creative Fellow, CSSD 2007-10). But such an enquiry had roots way back in my pedagogical practice development in the 1990s as I began to both shed the exercises which seemed not to serve clowning (ensemble) and at the same time design new exercises to elaborate on the results of such methods as Guy Dartnell’s Expressive Theatre, focusing on the response of the performer to stimuli and impulses.

Having side-lined the old outdated notions of authenticity and the inner self in clowning, as well as assumptions that clowning is driven by improvisation or play, I began to build what could take its place. The gap was filled by laughter-response conditioning, which has part of its roots in Gaulier, but is founded upon an assumption that clowning, like all performance, is produced by a series of material actions which are themselves understood by their organisation into sets of conventions. This materialist notion of clown practice, articulated in my PhD, then formed the theoretical basis for our current ongoing project, Friday Flop, which asks the question ‘How does clowning happen in a theatre?’ The methods used in this project are various attempts to stage clown training exercises which are driven by laughter response. Future phases of the project will look at broader issues of clown dramaturgy, considering how these disparate bits of clown theatre might be bundled together and eventually written as a whole performance. But, for now, we are still focusing on the bits in isolation.

The current phase of the project is a five-month period of Arts Council-funded R&D, now nearing its end. In this final month, a surprise happened. We had assumed that our ongoing development would continue simply to find new and better ways to stage the training. But suddenly we found that we wanted to go ‘back’, to some of the exercises discarded long ago. Exercises which trained and conditioned our behaviour in relation to the architecture of the theatre in which we work. The place where we work. This led us back to training which is interested in how humans move in a space and in relation to each other. And so we began to replay some of those exercises. I had to delve back into my notebooks from the 90s and re-read how I was trying to come to terms then with a legacy of training which felt inappropriate for what I wanted to explore. Now, today, that coming to terms with lineages of training regimes is distinct. In part, because some of my questions from that decade have been answered. Which seemed to lead me a rather naughty thought. What if we were to take some training exercises that were explicitly aimed at producing the opposite effect to clowning, and then ‘clown’ them in order to make them work for us? Which exercises would they be?

And that is what we will try and explore here today.

How do we ‘clown’ the performer exercises which were designed to induct us into the particular set of normative constraints founded upon the false assumptions that we are equal, fair and live in a democracy?

We are referring particularly to those exercises and training methods aimed at producing the ensemble.

By ‘to clown’ I mean the practice of bringing to bear of a critical approach founded upon clown theory. This approach is, of course, enacted by means of practice. In other words, it is Practice-as-Research. ‘To clown’, then, is a verb to describe a critical process. This critical process would question or subvert dominant cultural expectations about equality, fairness, and suggest a subversive reading of the practice of ‘ensemble’, producing a transgressive position and potentially useful training exercise for clowning.