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The Clowning Workbook

A practical textbook for teachers and learners of clowning, offering multiple ways to use clowning across general performer training: in voice, text, movement, and beyond. It draws on the author’s latest practical research and innovations in clown pedagogy.


This unique training book with linked video will be part of Bloomsbury Methuen’s series of Theatre Arts Workbooks, and will focus in detail on the real classroom and rehearsal needs of training actors in their encounter with clowning. Drawing on the author’s extensive experience of teaching clowning within a number of conservatoire, academic institutions, and beyond, the material will attend to the presentation and reception of clowning work by those whose primary concern is general actor training and its uses within such a context.


Clowning and actor training


Clowning has today found a regular place within the syllabuses of many drama departments and actor training courses across the UK and USA in particular. Indeed, ever since Jacques Lecoq introduced clowning into the programme of studies at his school in the early 1960s, clowning has been one of the most popular areas of study with students. With such a widespread and continuing interest in learning more about clowning in a practical way, the number of books available on the subject, although growing, is relatively small.


The Clowning Workbook will primarily be aimed at students and teachers who are interested in the potential of clown training within the broader curriculum of actor training. The existing texts on clown training are generally aimed at those already wanting to specialize in the performance mode of clowning, or else present the subject within the confines of methods drawing on Lecoq’s approach. This new book intends to be, on the one hand, a resource tailored to the specific needs and requirements of actor training and, on the other hand, an approach not confined to a Lecoq-based method, thus opening up the potential for training in clowning to be applied across a wider range of actor training syllabuses than is often the case at present.


Chapter One: clowning, playing and the presence of the actor


The fundamentals of clowning begin with a practical way of being in front of an audience: as an object of laughter. Without recourse to character, role or narrative context, the clown meets the spectator seemingly naked. How does this aid the actor to be on stage? What lessons does the clown mode of performance have for the actor, even before s/he has considered a role?

We begin with introducing participants to the fundamentals of clowning, learning to feel and enjoy our own ridiculousness. Converting our habitual fear of ridicule into the pleasure of laughing at ourselves, we can use it to make others laugh and experience the freedom of the clown.  From a clowning perspective, everything is ridiculous: our bodies, our movements, our ideas, our emotions, our words, our relationships, the universe.


This chapter presents exercises aimed at familiarizing the student with how this perspective entails the turning of failure into success, fear into laughter, suffering into joy. We don’t need to change ourselves, just look at everything from another perspective.

Chapter Five: voice


Most likely due to clowns’ associations with the ‘low’, the non-intellectual, it has often been assumed that clowns do not, or cannot speak. Voice and speech, however, are not entirely synonymous with the intellect. And in any case, there have been numerous speaking clowns throughout the form’s history.


What does clowning offer to the student focused on voice studies? Given that clowns habitually use language with limited intellectual content, the connection between physical impulses and voice, word and speech, tends to be closer than with non-clown actors. This chapter explores exercises in clowning aimed at addressing common concerns in voice training.

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