An ongoing investigation into how clowns act and how to teach clowning, which began in 2007 with the International Clown Research Project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council at Central School of Speech and Drama, with the Escola de Clown de Barcelona as the Project Partner.
Its latest phase is the publication of Clown Training - a practical guide (2015):
This comprehensive guide to clown training invites you into the clown workshop and leads you through a complete clown syllabus – from the first steps in playfulness to the work of devising and creating performable numbers and shows.
Exploring key clown training methods and drawing on Jon Davison’s experience as a leading international clown teacher, Clown Training offers detailed descriptions and analyses of a wide range of techniques, games and exercises. Both practical and reflective, this is the ideal companion for students and teachers of clowning alike.
Read the first chapter here.
The International Clown Research Project
In October 2007 the International Clown Research Project got under way. The project was funded from 2007-2011 by the Arts and Humanities Research Council as a Creative Fellowship at Central School of Speech and Drama (London University), with the Escola de Clown de Barcelona as the Project Partner. It was a three-year investigation into clown and clown teaching, involving workshops, performances and presentations in London, Barcelona and elsewhere.
Clowning By Numbers was an attempt to tackle clowning as text, as opposed to play. The question here was: what do clowns do? Not: what are clowns?
Clowning by Numbers, 2010
The International Clown Project brings classic numbers back to life, combining the best of tradition with contemporary clowning. Clowning by Numbers is a selection of mini-dramas from the golden age of clowning a century ago, rare masterpieces of comedy seldom seen today.
Clowns… spontaneous yet disciplined… original yet familiar… subtle yet grotesque… anarchic yet formulaic… hilarious yet heart-rending… Whether you want your clowns to be oafish buffoons or refined artists, then this is a show for you…
Outputs from the research project: articles and papers
The research is practical, but also produces tangible documentation in the form of videos, images and articles and other writings, posted on the ClownBlog.
Click on the links below to read:
Welcome to ClownBlog
International Clown Research Project
Draft Notes on Contemporary Clown Research, October-December 2007
The Phenomenology of Clown
The Dramaturgy of Clown or “What do clowns do?”
An Encyclopaedia of Clown
Clown Training Today: an historical survey
Clown Research Workshop, Year 3, No. 1, 8/10/09
Clown Research Workshop, Year 3, No. 2, 15/10/09
Clown Research Workshop, Year 3, No. 3, 22/10/09
Clown Research Workshop, Year 3, No. 4, 29/10/09
Clown Research Workshop, Year 3, No. 5, 5/11/09
Clown Research Workshop, Year 3, No. 6, 12/11/09
Clown Research Workshop, Year 3, No. 7, 19/11/09
Clown Research Workshop, Year 3, No. 8, 26/11/09
Clown Research Workshop, Year 3, No. 9, 3/12/09
Clown Research Workshop, Year 3, No. 10, 10/12/09
Clown Workshops: how do they work?
Clown Workshop at Shakespeare’s Globe, 16/12/09
Clown Research Workshop, Year 3, Week 11, 12-15/01/10
How to be a clown
Clown History Today
The introduction to a discussion, led by Chris Johnston, between audience and improvisers, held after "Present and Incorrect", a showing of a range of improvised performance, at Chisenhale Dance.
Audio of complete interview here
Improvisation and Clown
Post-Performance Discussion, July 2008
Jon Davison interviewed by Demian Reis, PhD clown student, June 2008
Outputs from the research project: workshop/performance videos
July - September 2008
September: workshops at Escola de Clown de Barcelona. We began to ponder how our new-found freshness in being present as clowns would hold up in the face of having to perform prepared numbers. Full report online soon...
July: workshops in London. We revisited the exercises we had found useful throughout the year, moulding them into a form that we could perform in front of a live audience, leading to group and solo performances at Chisenhale Dance in July, and at the Festival Of Emergent Art at CSSD in September.
April - June 2008
May: Workshops in London; Mondays and Wednesdays 6.30-8.30pm; Central School of Speech and Drama. We plunged headlong into vertiginous play, in an attempt to generate a kind of play-energy that would be appropriate to clowning, i.e. one that doesn't involve rules. Report coming soon...January - March 200826th-30th March: Workshops at Escola de Clown de Barcelona. What kind of preparation could we use for clowning if we dispense with rule-bound games?
4th-27th Feb: Workshops in London; Mondays and Wednesdays 6.30-8.30pm; Central School of Speech and Drama. We worked on the paradox of emotional expression, i.e. how can it be that in clowning both real and fake emotions are interesting?
October - December 2007
26th Oct-21st Nov: Workshops in London; Mondays and Wednesdays 6.30-8.30pm; Central School of Speech and Drama - Studio 1 What exercises are truly useful in order to feel, understand and learn the basic state of clown? We revisited some familiar territory but with a critical eye.
12th-16th Dec: Workshops at Escola de Clown de Barcelona. Are there only a handful of truly clown exercises? What do they say about clown as a technique in itself, rather than as a function of theatrre, mask or improvisation?
clown workshop photography
clown teacher - Jon Davison
photographer - Frédérique Bangerter
participants - Helena Otaegui, Marta Serena, Paula Ibáñez, Mercè Solé, Carlos Fabregas
These photographs were taken during a week of workshops in December 2007 at the Barcelona Clown School. The workshops are part of a series of investigatory sessions that are taking place throughout the three years of this research project.
We have found that there has been a remarkable coincidence of vision between the two artists involved (Jon Davison, clown; and Frédérique Bangerter, photographer). Can it be that the criteria for clowning may well be the same as the criteria for photography, and that what the clown trainer is looking for is, or can be, identical to what the photographer is looking for? Can we document such key clown phenomena as joy, ridiculousness and being-in-the-moment? We think so, and are continuing to investigate how photography can capture clown-moments.
My original assumption was that I would document this research via digital video, but found that the medium imposed a sense of time, an inexorable march of narrative onto a form that seeks a kind of timelessness, where the performers function as witnesses to that eternal moment.
This can be true of theatre in general, of course, but clown finds itself frequently in this void, as it does not rely upon character, rational logic, or even upon action. Photography, being a still form, understands this well. Hopefully then, these photos are not images of clowns, but of moments where clown appears.
Frédérique Bangerter is a freelance photographer from Geneva, now based in Barcelona. Her early studies were in Fine Art, and she has retained a keen interest in pictorialism in photography. Her main interest is in producing images that work in wider contexts, such as working with text, or images as objects. She is currently working on a joint project exploring how photography relates to architecture.
clown workshop photography
Clown Workshop Photogrpahy by Frédérique Bangerter