Monday, 12 March 2018

Clown Dramaturgy: Sáras Feijóo @ Edinburgh Contemporary Clown Festival

Edinburgh Contemporary Clown Festival
3rd-5th May 2018 - Assembly Roxy.

Shows, Masterclasses from our Gardi Hutter and Ricardo Puccetti, a panel of discussion.
Our co-production Clown Cabaret Scratch Night will take place the weekend prior to the festival as a prelude to it.
CloWnStePPinG - A hub dedicated to the understanding, promotion and development of contemporary clown as an art.
Link to the campaign,

Looking over the guests that you have coming across for the festival - what made you choose these particular artists?

Switzerland's Gardi Hutter is a big icon in the world of clowning, also my idol almost since I started my journey within this art. I traveled, for a couple of years, as a nomad clown with actor, clown and teacher, Victor Stivelman (and taking part in theatre clown groups), and one of the things that we always carried with us was a DVD of her show, The Brave Joanne, which is actually the show she is bringing to the Festival. 

When I facilitate workshops, I always show
her work too. I find her work very inspiring because she has both sides: the message and the silliness of play. For instance, this brave Joanne is a washerwoman who dreams of being Joan of Arc; through her Hutter takes us into this journey of playing and having fun when we do things that we don’t really like.

Not only has Gardi Hutter performed all around the world, winning more than 13 awards on the way, but her humanity is outstanding. Through her work she shows us both the tragic and the comic sides of our lives, moving us emotionally inside at the same time as making us think about what it is that makes us human.

I have chosen her because, although she defines herself as being in the ‘classical tradition’, she is the perfect example of what I call contemporary clowning. For me this is about the content and how we present ourselves in the world, instead of being about taking up a ‘form’ based on a mentally-constructed (idea) character which doesn’t truly reflect who we are as human beings.

Ricardo Puccetti (Brazil) is not only a big influence in South America but also an international reference when it comes to the art of clowning. A major part of his practice is to explore “the comic use of the body,” to the point that he has developed his own methodology of work.

Johnny Melville was born in Leith. He took part in a revolutionary artistic clown movement in Europe, ‘the Fools’ movement of the 70’s and 80’s, and he is 'one of the living legends of the modern clown’. He has performed in over 44 countries and taught hundreds the art.

His last performance in Scotland was in 1975, so I believe that bringing Johnny back to perform here after 43 years is very special.

I feel extremely honoured that they three are joining us at the FIRST edition of the Edinburgh Contemporary Clown Festival!.

They are our international artists and, as someone based in Scotland, I will also perform my contemporary theatre clown solo which actually had its debut at the Assembly Roxy in 2014.

As well as, of course, the quality of the work, I have focused on bringing performers and artists notable for their high integrity and love for what they do. Ricardo, Johnny and Gardi are bringing both high quality professional work and lots of warmth as human beings.

I have chosen these 4 different productions because we all are going to bring something of different value to the festival and show our audiences different ways in which this art can be expressed, while always drawing on the same set of core values.

What made you decide that Edinburgh needed a clown festival?

For the last 4 years, I have been producing, under the name of CloWnStePPinG, contemporary theatre shows, Exploratory Clown Laboratories and Clown Communities Socials, as well as co-producing Clown Cabaret Scratch Nights and Clown Cabaret Special Editions. These events have been bringing more awareness in Scotland, of what contemporary clown really is, at the same time as nurturing and expanding our community of clown artists and audiences.

I started to work on this idea of a festival over a year ago by following my heart’s desire of bringing the work of Gardi Hutter to the country. Then I contacted her, and started to look for a home for our festival. Assembly Roxy accepted to be our home!

Last year, when our Clown Cabaret Special Edition co-production (a collaboration with Plutôt la Vie and Melanie Jordan) took part at the SURGE festival and got a great audience reaction, I realised I was on the right track.

Our audiences are ready for more. Furthermore, our community of clown artists are too. Not everyone can travel to see the work of the international artists we are bringing, so the Festival seems the perfect opportunity to continue to inspire and nurture our community of clown artists and, of course, clown-lovers.

As we all know, Edinburgh is the city of Festivals; sure, some of them bring clowning/physical theatre as part of their programme, but none of them constitutes a space for contemporary clown to exist as such. I believe we are now providing that space.

I know that clown can contain a variety of different disciplines and approaches: when you say 'clown', how would you define it?

I define it as ‘contemporary clown’ and yes, it differs from other disciplines within clowning (as you mentioned), as well as the conceptions people have of it. Contemporary clown is about the connection we create with ourselves first (as performers) from which we are then able to connect with our audience from an innocent, playful place. 

A place of constant communication and discovery, wonder. A space where we allow our vulnerability to show constantly, thus giving our audience an opportunity to get in touch with their own, as they see themselves reflected in the performer. 

Because, ultimately, contemporary clown is about revealing the humanity that we have within ourselves, a humanity that society so often encourages us to hide behind masks. These masks can separate us from our true essence and that of others.

And a contemporary clown shows us this humanity by, for instance, accepting failure and moving from there into finding a new ingenious solution which grants the clown and us, their audience, a sense of achievement that is created by being completely in the moment. 

It also helps to develop a sense of listening and honesty about what is really happening. A contemporary clown performance is real and raw and at the same time has a structure and a message. The artist knows where they are heading but still allows this fresh and constant connection and communication with the audience, making them participants in an emotional journey.

This kind of practice also has a message behind it, which is what I love the most and which makes the performance both an emotional and a thought-provoking experience. What we see it is not so much based on the abilities of the performers and the amazing tricks they might be able to do, but about our shared ability to be humans, truly and transparently.

Moreover, this particular discipline goes beyond the stage or performance to become a lifestyle, a philosophy, a way we, as humans, interact with the people around us, in our daily tasks, our business and, ultimately, the way we relate with the world.

Why do you think that clown is becoming so popular - and important - in Scotland at the moment?
I think I already answered that one above. But I will also add the following:

The gift that contemporary clown brings to us, as humans, is going through the ‘uncomfortability’ of looking at ourselves and who we are, in order to find our heart, our vulnerability, our fragility, at the same time that we find our playful side, joy, and our own individual way of doing things. It is important also to allow ourselves to laugh at the ‘tragedy’ of our existence; it is the only way to find ‘the light’.

Why is this important in Scotland? As a person involved in the arts, clown gives us a different dimension to our work (and world). So it is a great addition to the Scottish cultural rainbow which already has many colours.

As a person, I would go even beyond the limits of this land. Clowning take us through an emotional journey that makes us feel human, inspired, that our lives matter and also connects us with ourselves and with the others in that space… and, it allows us to laugh freely and without limits at those little things that makes us who we are.

Do you have a particular vision that the festival expresses?

Yes, I do! (She says with her hand on her heart committing herself to building a dream that was born in her heart.)

To bring high-quality work that reflects the different takings a contemporary clown show could have but yet, as mentioned about, always draw on the same core values. 

Ultimately, Contemporary clown is about allowing ourselves to be who we are and, to love that and to share it completely with our audience! Our vulnerability, fragility, our sense of ridiculousness, our “not fitting in” but trying to fit in, our soul’s honesty and need for connection, love and acceptance.

That is my vision for the festival, to create a space where it is ok to be us. It is ok to be in touch with our soul and hold our heart’s desire so deeply that we wildly go and make them real.

A space that honours the beauty and inspiration this art brings to our lives and how it reflects our Own Humanity and transforms it into a Creative Adventure.

Right now, we are running a Kickstarter campaign and would love to get supported by all of you, readers! I encourage you to help us build this space by supporting us financially now. With all the funding cuts and other pressures on creative organisations, crowdfunding allows us all to build together something that will benefit directly our society and enrich it in unimaginable ways.

We have created perks for general audiences, performers, supporters and, (local or online) businesses to become our partners in crime,

Sáras Feijóo. Creativity Mentor, Curator and Multi-Media Performance Artist.
As a curator, I am the Artistic Director of the FIRST Edinburgh Contemporary Clown Festival.
International Artists
Gardi Hutter, Switzerland. Headliner.
Ricardo Puccetti from Lume Theatre. Brazil.
Johnny Melville, originally from Leith in Edinburgh but have been based in Spain for many years.
Scotland-based Artist
Saras Feijoo - Venezuela/Spain/Scotland

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