“You don’t choose clown, clown chooses you.”
Light-eyed, open minded, and fantastic Claire Parry-Jones visited Moscow in the middle of February. I couldn't miss such event and felt lucky to observe and communicate with Claire within two days. On February 11, Claire carried out workshops on a clownery for children and adults. Me and my children devoured each Claire’s word, and invited her to tea. Next day we had an interesting talk at our home.
Those days were not only filled emotionally. My new vision of the clown’s profession was created then. Dear visitor of the site, you are invited to take a look at surprising and deep-conceiving Clare.
Zhulya: When did you start clowning? What did you do before this?
Clare: I started about fifteen years ago. I was working in theatre, as an actress, and then I started dramatherapy, I was looking at the role of theatre, laughter healing therapy partyculary the mood and laugh, feeling therapy.
Zhulya: The first reason to be a clown was a wish to be a therapist?
Clare: No, it wasn”t, I was working with somebody who would work in circus, and she said: “You should be a clown,” and I was like “Yes, right, very funny.” And then I started a learn about some clowns in children's hospital, and I found it really fascinating, mixing performance with something very pure.
Zhulya: What is the time passed since the moment when you heard what it is worth being the clown before what you became him?
Clare: I never expected to be a clown. Its just sort of... happened. I have heard one of my teachers said “You don’t choose clown, clown chooses you.” So, you have no choice.
Zhulya: What was your first experience as the clown?
Clare: …. I was petrified. It was very frankly… When I started a training I went to circus school in London, and that's where I started, and then I did various courses. But my first work itself was in a hospital, with children. And I was particularly frightened of the lessons of teenagers.
Zhulya: Who in your clownish family was the first one to become a clown?
Clare: Well, that’s me. There has never been a clown, I am the first. My partner is also a clown. In our family – we both clowns, yes.
Zhulya: When you became partners on a scene?
Clare: Well, we met nine years ago at a very exotic place called Weston-super-Mare in the UK. And as we know the British have a good sense of sarcasm. We met at the clown convention, and it took some time before we got together. We started working together two-three years after that. …
Zhulya: How often did you change your vision of clowning during your
Clare: I started very much learning to clowning for hospitals, so using a more gentle, sensitive way of clown. And then I worked a lot for children, so it was more street kind of clown. And than I did some training in Canada, Pochinko clown which is far more of the spirit, really. So I integrated a lot with my previous work as a drama threrapist, and I interested in shamanism with clown. So this is all come together really, and this is for me the most powerful form of clowning, for me.
Zhulya: When did you meet with method of Pochinko?
Clare: Richard Pochinko who really explored this way of clowning, died some years ago, but I trained by Siu Morrisone, in Toronto, Canada, who teaches this way of clowning and runs a course every year, and it with her I first explored for this.
Zhulya: Where were such situations when you realized that the audience did not accept you? What did you do in such cases?
Clare: In my hospital work, if a child doesn’t want to see me, want distance, I accept it and just go away. But in theatre work, or when I am working in a street, or whatever, you just have to be constanly a lot to changing all the time to finding way in to connect with the person. So you just have to try lots of different things. And part of clown is been very sensitive and opening, aware, so you just have to feel this change sense.
Zhulya: Is it work without script?
Clare: Yes, pretty much of my work is without script, it's all improvised in the moment, yes.
Zhulya: All your performances?
Clare: No, in clown theatre, especially work that I do, for example, with my partner, than we have a basic structure that allows for improvisation with audience. And when I work on my own, again, I allow for improvisation with my audience or if I'm working in nature, whatever happens there.
Zhulya: I heard that you’re researching clowning in terms of its connection with shamanism, would you please tell me about it. What was the reason for these studies?
Clare: I studied and practice shamanism about 5 years ago, and I realised that… it was about a year after I did my Pochinko training. And I began to realise that there is a lot of connections with this way of connecting with people and the environment. So I began to explore these two together, and then also realised that, particularly with some American indian tribes. Clown has been a very revenant figure in some tribes. And I find it very interesting the similarities with this way of being in the world and connecting with people making these explorations . So, I trying to do this, but I have no idea where it's going. It seems to be working, and very much working with the spirit of some places, I often go to secret sites of places in nature, in the environment. I need it, I find it very interesting – playing with all this. And this tongue with laugh and respect. In book cases with clown and my shamanic work. It is a lot of hard work, it's very disciplined, and I think with this boundaries, then you can explore and play and have fun and find really deep connection.
Zhulya: What qualities do you think a clown should have?
Clare: I think foremost — sensitivity, vulnerability, openness. And I think would I really find, when I feel touched by a clown, its when they really connect with themselves, and their life experience and I'm able to laugh at this. It's wow, and to laugh at the beauty and … So it takes a lot of knowing man self being experienced in life, but also curious and playful.
Zhulya: What about actor's education for clowns?
Clare: I think it takes a lot to find what will work for you, because I have tried quite a lot different kinds of clown training, and some really have been very profound for me, and others not. There are so many styles of clown, some I love, some I just really don't like at all — that's human nature.
Zhulya: What is your definition of clownery?
Clare: Good question! I think, really may be a reflexion of the human condition and all his hugeness. In my training with Sue Morrison she talked about this: if you got a face all directions of yourself at the same time, you would laugh at the beauty of your ridiculousness. And I think really it is the ability to be able to laugh at oneself and the environment and us as humans, that's how ridiculous we can be.
Zhulya: At the yesterday's class there was an exercise, to look at the all present people's eyes. I felt how it is difficult for me to smile to all people, for some people it is difficult to smile. Why?
Clare: I think sometimes there is an idea - just because you are a clown, that you should be happy or smile. Аnd that is not how we are as humans. So I think for me clown is not just about that, and I think it is about connecting with people — consecutively, genuinly. And this means - you meet them at the bridge. So they bring themselves, you bring yourself, and you meet there. So, sometimes you may meet in the same place, another time you may have to work very hard to find way to meet and it can be in many different places.
Zhulya: So connection to the audience is more important for the clown than just to be a laughing doll?
Clare: For me – it is a connection, absolutely, but also, you know, for me definitely I… the look is one thing, but I think it is important that you look is authentic to yourself, or your character whatever you are. But actually that the connection is the most important thing. And I know that, even when I was training in the beginning to be a hospital clown, what was more important to me — the connection I was building up with the children, rather than - how I was looking. Laugh was the priority to connection.
To be continued