Why artistic venture is valuable.

Over the past 4.5 months I have been based in Tuncurry, NSW. My mother in law, Edna, has been kind enough to put up with us while we get another bus ready to get back on the road.

The window in front of my computer looks out on an eighties brick two story squat ugly block of 4 units. For the past 4.5 months I have seen a person, massively burdened by weight, drinking many beers, come out of their front door on the first floor, lean on the bannister, drink, watch. At first my wife, Trish, thought this person was a woman. In fact the person was a man.

Last week this man died on his own in his unit.

He had said once to Edna that watching me train in the front and back yards used to really make his day. He loved it. Found it inspiring.

Little ripples….

 

 

 

Reflections – on life, glossy magazines and performing in a foreign langauage.

Reflections,
on life, glossy magazines, and performing in a foreign language.

Greetings one and all. I wish you all the luck possible for 2014.
2013 presented me with one huge setback. Some emotionally disconnected individual burnt our 11 metre converted school bus in Australia. It was our home. To top off the incident the insurance company had sent us the wrong papers. So it turned out we were not insured. Apparently it is our responsibility to tell them they had sent the wrong papers. 7 or 8 years savings gone in twenty minutes of flames.
For this reason I have been silent on the blog front for a couple of months. I wrote one about the bus burning experience. After such a profound share in that blog I was left without much to say to be honest. I mean, where do you go from that?
The turning of the new year provides a marking point in time. Looking back; Looking forward. Like the Roman god Janus. January.
Looking back…. well obviously last year THE bad thing was the bus burning. So to balance that what was THE good thing for 2013? On reflection, there were many. Very many. That makes me smile right there. What a great feeling to match the vulnerability created by the bus burning… the feeling of warmth from realising there were so many ‘goods’.
To choose the biggest ‘good’. I think the biggest ‘good’ is to have managed to successfully push forward the show: Jeremy Farquar, the twisted butler, in “The Fool, the cow and the art of corruption.” This is a deep deep urge in me, and it has been there for a long time. So to be making it a reality and touching audiences, really touching their hearts and informing their heads and inspiring their souls, with the show means a great deal.

Under the umbrella of the show, one of the highlights in 2013 was performing the show in French at Sion Festival des Arts de la Rue.
I speak French, but not fluently. It is not a language I think in. For the performer it is a challenge to be in a foreign language. A challenge which reaps benefits.
Less words. What does that force me to do? To use my body more in the performance. Use my body to feel them, not just the eyes to watch them. But the body to feel the audience as you turn to them. Its a whole other level of physical awareness. No more falling back on generic street performer lines. The piece has to stand for itself more.
I had to find different ways of saying things. Had to create new images. Had to play with only one word sometimes. The essence of the meaning only. How many ways can your tone of voice play with one word? That challenge really opens doors creatively.
To feel an audience come with you even though the language is not perfect is fantastic. Spontaneous applause in the final scene meant even more from a foreign audience. To then have three people say they had come to the show three times in the two days of the festival because they really appreciated the ideas held in the tricks! Briliant.
Stumbling and fumbling for language also gave a reality and vulnerability to the performance. A humanity. In the moment. A weak underbelly which actually pulled the audience closer in a way. Most unexpected.
And of course I also got some fresh footage with which to make a promo video. Please if you know anyone connected in the French speaking world of the arts, show them this link! 🙂

Looking forward to 2014 there are already many ‘goods’. Aswell as a terrific life with a great wife and two brilliant powerful sons….
In January I am training to present for Thermomix. A culinary machine which will help keep us all healthier. Another string to my Passion4Juice bow.
In March I will be training in Laughter Yoga. Clearly wonderful. Another string to my Passion4Laughter bow.
In May I will be training to be an independent wedding celebrant. To help people make a ceremony which is personal and holds true meaning for them. This should be fun and deep at the same time.
And this is before the season’s festivals, both performing and juicing, have been booked in.

On life rolls.
My reflection on glossy magazines? Stay away from them. They only make you feel inadequate.
Its good to be blogging again. Thanks for reading.
Once again, the best of good luck for 2014.

 

University of Western Sydney educationist writes about watching ‘Jeremy Farquar: the Fool, the cow and the art of corruption’.

Check it out! University of Western Sydney educators writing about my work!

Edutainment is alive and well in the form of political street theatre. Touching minds and hearts. Even changing lives. This truly affirms for me my artistic existence!

A Pedagogy of the Streets
Posted by christinefjohnston
by David R Cole

When we exit the university or school and walk down a street we are still learning. Some of us may wander and stare at our mobile devices, musing at the latest posting on Facebook or the info-feed on Twitter. Others, perhaps more like myself, may look outwardly at the particular scene in which we find ourselves and try to take in the atmosphere of the ‘street situation’. You might be surprised to hear that on one such an occasion I was stopped in my pondering by a street performance, that has made its way into my thoughts as a professional educator and researcher, and I would like to share with you now. Many municipalities in the UK sponsor festival ‘street artist’ events, which are specifically designed to shake us out of our subjective shells and make us think about what is happening ‘in the moment’ and in reconciliation of our relationships with the streets. I had stumbled unwittingly into one such scenario, and was forced to reconsider many of my assumptions and beliefs out there, ‘on the streets’, away from the safety of controlled pedagogic action, assessment and institutional regulation.

Who is Jeremy Farquhar? This was the first question that I was made to confront. My cynical self could say that he is just another street performer, a character created for general amusement purposes. But if I permit myself to be moved more deeply, I could wonder how and why a clown should confront me on the street and simultaneously have knowledge of the workings of global capitalism. The truth is that if we are to be able to appreciate the ‘pedagogy of the streets’ we need to set aside the conditioning and anaesthetic of professional learnt knowledge and the networks that keep this knowledge in place. The edifice of our shared culture shields us against questioning the deeply held assumptions that ironically we want our students to be able to engage with and learn about. The clown said to us: “you are not watching T.V.”

Once I had let my guard down and allowed myself to engage with the ‘pedagogy of the streets’, I could ride with the ideas that were presented. For example: we communally commit war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq by not questioning the continued use of force in those lands. One may counter, “well it is better there than here”. But is the war on terror really better if it is fought overseas? How and on what grounds can we make such a judgement? Jeremy Farquhar didn’t give me the answers; he just provoked the thought, and took away the comfort of living in a privileged country far from the battlefield for an instant. It turns out that Farquhar is a butler, who listens into the conversations of those in power without making any decisions or affecting a singular course of action. In short, Farquhar is a corridor, an ear, a portal to a place where the truths of our globally unequal society are understood and enacted.

We are all walking on a tightrope. On one side of the rope is the continued reliance on debt to make everything in our world work, and the so called inevitable “fiscal cliff” that the debt produces. On the other side of the rope are the consequences of the evolution of a ‘one world system’, and the mono-culturalism that this system ultimately entails, including environmental disaster, over-population, and the global mass movement of people away from places of shortage, war and conflict and in search of a ‘better life’. What is the possibility of resistance to falling off the rope? What can we do in the face of such negative, unwholesome and divided options? Farquhar transforms himself into a sadhu, a modern Gandhi figure, advocating non-violent revolution and the counteraction to the ‘politics of fear’. I let myself be transported to a place where a solution to the current predicaments was possible, where politicians did listen to the facts of environmental science, where the education system teaches wisdom in preference to personal efficiency and the fundamentals of fitting into ‘one world capitalism’. If there is hope today, it lies in ‘a pedagogy of the streets’ and communally thinking through the real conundrums that face us in a profound and deep manner, rather than the continued farce and cover-up of political life. Thank you Farquhar, whoever, and wherever you are…

What can be derived from vandals destroying your home? Or …. Some bastard burnt my bus!

What can be derived from vandals destroying your home?

Or ….

Some bastard burnt my bus!

 

Mid Uk/Europe tour on August 30th I woke up to messages coming in from friends in Australia. Our friends were directing us to news sites on which we found pictures of our converted live-in bus completely burnt out.

The bad news did not stop there. At the end of the last Australian season we had finally found and bought a bigger bus to live in. It was the right size and the right price and had acceptable fuel consumption. We were really excited about this as we felt this bus could cope with our family on the move for the next 8 to 10 years; maybe more.  We left Australia in May for the UK season with the new bus parked by the old bus outside Stargazer Motorhomes’ yard. Brett at Stargazer was going to put a couple of cupboards into the new bus, and help us sell the old bus.

The old bus! The bus both my sons were conceived in.

Vandals had broken in to the new bus, graffitied, and set it alight. The fire jumped from the new bus to the old bus. Both went up in flames. The same vandals had a busy weekend, setting alight caravans, bins, skips, cars….

When Trish and I got the news we were very busy. Almost too busy to allow a response.

The first response…. My gut seized. Rapidly came ‘its only stuff’, ‘no one has been hurt’, ‘we are not grieving the loss of anyone’. That first day everything important to me was intensified… my kids, my wife. They give me happiness. Somehow this realisation was intensified by the loss of such big material objects. I remember walking across a field, pushing Roary who had just nodded off in the push chair, looking at Trish sitting in the sun by our live-in truck with Jackpot, our eldest, playing beside her. I felt such intense love, happiness, gratitude for them. Two fingers to the vandals I thought. All they have done is proven what is truly important.

We worked the next two festivals back to back and then drove straight up to Edinburgh Fringe. Knackered, with a bit of space to slow down, a shuddering feeling of vulnerability overwhelmed me. Tears came. Shaking body. Shuddering tension throughout me. Anger at whoever had destroyed so much of what we had built to improve life for our family. Exposed, raw.

I had to take a day off. I tried to lick my wounds. To calm.

A week later I was in Switzerland performing at the Vevey festival of street arts. While there I got the news that the insurance company had decided that the new bus was not covered under insurance. The insurers had sent us the wrong papers, but it was our fault for not getting in touch with them to get the correct papers. So the new bus was not covered. 55,000 dollars gone! 6 years of frugality and saving whatever we could.  Up in smoke. Due to vandals’ stupid emotionless reality, combined with insurance companies staying true to form and trying to weedle out of paying. The shaky powerless exposed vulnerable feeling swept back in like a wave…. Taking my breath and my strength away.

On the weekend I had to perform 8 shows to make people laugh! Irony eh!?

The shaky feeling was awful. Breathless. Weak. Shocked. Almost desperate.

My fantastic wife Trish has Catholic roots. Her world view makes her look for messages from the universe. Was this a sign we should stop our life on tour? Should we make a drastic change? Sometimes I would like to, but I don’t really believe in that.  For me the value comes from what we can learn from things.

What have I learnt? Well the shaky breathless vulnerability feeling was changed by human interaction and human kindness. Truly and simply. Human kindness was the balm for the wounds. On the weekend at Vevey Hardey McCurrick offered pleasant, soft, real human conversation. Another big lift was receiving a message from Nina who I helped create her new street show; her message told me her show was going great and thanked me for super mentoring. Over time other friends have helped us with childcare; given us strong hugs at the right time; Brett from Stargazer has offered to work for no charge to redo another bus for us… my mum even offered to sell some jewellery!

All these human kindnesses have been the healing ointments. It is the warmth of human interaction that has changed my state from shaky, cold and shivering, to warm, hopeful and strong.

I know it’s a cliché, but it’s a cliché because its true. Material objects help me do things…. but happiness, the happy hormones in my body are released through interactions with humans – my family, my friends, messages from people I have helped. If there is a silver lining to this dark cloud, at the moment it seems to be the reaffirmation of this ancient human truth….

Material objects don’t make you happy, warm humanity does.

Education on the road …. or….. Mr Gove I believe you are mistaken.

Education on the road .
or
Mr Gove I believe you are mistaken.

I am a professional Clown and Fool. www.passion4laughter.com . I also help my wife run her company Passion4Juice. www.passion4juice.com .
We spend half the year in the UK/Europe and half the year in Australia. We have two young sons: 5 years and 2 years. Most of the time we travel as a family. We are often asked how we do, and plan to deal with, education and schooling for our boys. This is a knotty question for many touring performers, caterers, showpeople of all types.
Here is an enlightening tale of real life on the road in a field.
At the end of last month I was working at Glastonbury Festival. My two sons, Jackpot and Roary, were being cared for by a friend’s partner, Jethro. He did a fine job. Jethro was also looking after Indigo. Jackpot and Indigo have been mates for a few years now. Indigo’s mum, Roxy, also works the festival circuit, so Jackpot and Indigo are festival mates. It’s good to have continuity in our fluid lives.
While at Glastonbury both Jackpot and Indigo did their daily reading according to the National Curriculum and Jethro filled in their reading logs.
Also each day the children busked. They took their bongos, another percussive instrument somewhat like a triangle in a log, a harmonica, a guitar and a bird whistle. As a group, with Jethro looking on, they set up their busking spot, played tunes, and collected money.
They also engaged the public and sold ‘spells’. This involved putting a dot or two of magic sparkly sprinkles on a person’s face and saying a spell to wish them a great festival, or something similar.
I am sure they melted many hearts and inspired a good few minds too. How life can be if we choose not to follow the path most trodden.
I have been a teacher and teacher trainer at times during my life. As an educator I found this daily busking activity exciting.
Howard Gardner’s  ‘Frames of Mind. The theory of multiple intelligences’ informs the way I look at learning, and teaching. Instead of assessing school achievement and intelligence through Reading, Writing and Arithmetic (the three Rs), Gardner sees the human potential to be developed as spread into multiple intelligences: linguistic, logical/mathematical, spatial, musical, Bodily-kinaesthetic, interpersonal (between people), intrapersonal (inside ourselves). More at the end for those readers who are interested.
Howard Gardner has questioned the idea that intelligence is a single entity, that it results from a single factor, and that it can be measured simply via IQ tests. He has also challenged the cognitive development work of Piaget. Bringing forward evidence to show that at any one time a child may be at very different stages for example, in number development and spatial/visual maturation, Howard Gardner has successfully undermined the idea that knowledge at any one particular developmental stage hangs together in a structured whole.
During their busking activity the children’s potential for a number of these intelligences was stimulated, used, challenged and improved.
Language most certainly in their songs, their spell creation, their interactions.
Logical/Mathematical in their choice of spot, counting up the money, dividing the money amongst themselves so it was fair. And of course when they were deciding what to spend their earnings on.
Spatial was used in their performances going to and from the audience. Also in their appreciation of what was a good spot; not too busy not too empty.
Musical obviously in their playing instruments, listening to each other to play together (to some extent), and in their singing.
Bodily/kinaesthetic when they were dancing, and casting spells, and using their bodies to express and engage their audience.
Interpersonal when they were interacting with strangers, reading body language, asking questions.
Intrapersonal when they were dealing with their own nerves, excitement, expectations.
The children were happy, proud and extremely motivated by their activity. In fact Jethro had to end the busking each day to ensure the kids just played.
It could be argued that through their busking activities under the safe, caring and watchful gaze of Jethro, the kids had the full potential of their humanity stimulated. All seven intelligences working together and independently.
Brilliant.
How dissappointing Mr Gove! To suggest that forced attendance at school is the only path to successful education is short sighted and closed minded.
Please if you have any stories of great learning while on the road, share them. Be it learning for children or learning for adults. 🙂

 
More detail about the multiple intelligences:
Howard Gardner initially formulated a list of seven intelligences. His listing was provisional. The first two have been typically valued in schools; the next three are usually associated with the arts; and the final two are what Howard Gardner called ‘personal intelligences’ (Gardner 1999: 41-43).

Linguistic intelligence involves sensitivity to spoken and written language, the ability to learn languages, and the capacity to use language to accomplish certain goals. This intelligence includes the ability to effectively use language to express oneself rhetorically or poetically; and language as a means to remember information. Writers, poets, lawyers and speakers are among those that Howard Gardner sees as having high linguistic intelligence.
Logical-mathematical intelligence consists of the capacity to analyze problems logically, carry out mathematical operations, and investigate issues scientifically. In Howard Gardner’s words, it entails the ability to detect patterns, reason deductively and think logically. This intelligence is most often associated with scientific and mathematical thinking.
Musical intelligence involves skill in the performance, composition, and appreciation of musical patterns. It encompasses the capacity to recognize and compose musical pitches, tones, and rhythms. According to Howard Gardner musical intelligence runs in an almost structural parallel to linguistic intelligence.
Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence entails the potential of using one’s whole body or parts of the body to solve problems. It is the ability to use mental abilities to coordinate bodily movements. Howard Gardner sees mental and physical activity as related.
Spatial intelligence involves the potential to recognize and use the patterns of wide space and more confined areas.
Interpersonal intelligence is concerned with the capacity to understand the intentions, motivations and desires of other people. It allows people to work effectively with others. Educators, salespeople, religious and political leaders and counsellors all need a well-developed interpersonal intelligence.
Intrapersonal intelligence entails the capacity to understand oneself, to appreciate one’s feelings, fears and motivations. In Howard Gardner’s view it involves having an effective working model of ourselves, and to be able to use such information to regulate our lives.

 

What is art for? or….. We caused a bit of an upset in the park.

What is art for?
or
We caused a bit of an upset in the park.

The ancient question “What is art for?” reared its head in a very real way a few weeks ago in Ireland.
On June 1st and 2nd I had the pleasure of performing at The Greystones Arts Festival in County Wicklow, Ireland.
Grainne McGloughlin, a wonderful woman, booked two shows. Both Joseph D’Amour Bouffon in the show ‘A modern man’, and Jeremy Farquar the twisted butler in ‘The Fool, the cow and the art of corruption’. www.passion4laughter.com .
On June 1st Joseph D’Amour Bouffon took his turn. A fun crowd pleasing show which plays with the theme of being a modern man. Two thoroughly enjoyable shows with big hats collected for the arts festival itself. Lots of very happy laughing audience members.
On June 2nd it was the turn of Mr Jeremy Farquar. Some of you reading this will know about Mr Farquar and what he does. For those who are not familiar, the show addresses the issue of the world arms trade. It informs and inspires the audience. It is funny and the tricks are impressive… but although Jeremy Farquar wears a red nose he is not truly a clown. He is a fool, in the tradition of the Shakespearian fool in King Lear. The fool uses tricks and laughter to tickle the audience into a state of openness, before delivering some unpalatable truth; much like a fisherman tickles a trout before …
The first show on Sunday June 2nd was programmed for 1.30pm. Just after lunch. During lunch for some of the audience who were enjoying a picnic in the park.
The audience grew and grew. It became a large crowd. They all stayed even when the deeper meaning of the piece became clear. After the show the collection was good. As is often the case members of the audience came forward to share with me how much their hearts had been touched by the message, to thank me for giving hope, to urge me to continue touring and performing this piece. One audience member this time was in fact an MP, or TD as political representatives are called in Ireland. He said “I have never seen a piece of street art as impressive as this. To incorporate such skills with such important meaning is really excellent. Inspirational. Well done.”
The performance had gone fairly well. It was not the best… I had to shout over the local coast guard helicopter as it made 4 flybys, thus the delivery was a trifle brutal. The final scene was not so beautiful and inspiring due to me trying out a different sound track. I noted these thoughts and made mental changes for the second performance. But given the audience feedback it seemed to have hit the mark.
The second performance was scheduled at 4.30pm in the same park. At about 3pm Grainne, the lovely booker, arrived at our truck. She was worried as she had had a few complaints about the show…about it being too political…could I tone it down? I thought. It is an overtly political piece. Grainne knew that when she booked it. The theme cannot really be changed. I have an old friend from Hoi Polloi Theatre Company who welcomes an ‘good review’ as much as a ‘bad’ one. Then she knows her work is provoking a reaction of some sort. What she is dissappointed with is no reaction at all.
I offered Grainne to cancel Jeremy Farquar and have Joseph D’Amour instead. She was the boss and I would do what she wanted… but , I said, some art is fluffy and fun, and some is provocative. This is a provocative piece. It is all art. She was running an Arts Festival. So it was up to her to decide what she wanted. Grainne consulted the few members of her crew who were there. No one saw a problem with the piece. It was not rude, or lewd, or illegal. But yes it was provocative and it touched the heart. One person suggested that at the end I not give out the pieces of paper with my email address asking people to contact me for words to send to their MP. We agreed I should not do that for the 4.30pm show; but that the Jeremy Farquar performance should continue as programmed.
The 4.30pm performance was a good one. No helicopter blasting the performance. A big crowd, full circle, with many hearts touched and minds turned on. Spontaneous applause during the final scene. Audience reactions again thanked me for the hope, urged me to continue, hoped people would listen to Jeremy Farquar, thanked me for holding Ireland up as a beacon of hope to the world. People paid well into the collection made at the end. All money went to the festival. It was an exhilerating performance. The conversation between performer and audience had been sustained all the way through. Even with such a mixed family audience. There was a buzz in the air at the end.
Later that evening I bumped into Grainne again. I let her know that the second show had been a cracker. Her response was that she was sorry to have asked me to change it; she was angry with herself for having done so. In fact I think she did the right thing to come and talk to me. In the end she decided to defend her decision to book a provocative piece, but equally as a manager she had listened to a couple of members of the public. She could say to them in the future that she had acted upon the conversation. I truly felt she had taken the correct course of action. I told her so and gave her a hug of support.
I took the opportunity to ask her in more detail about what had been said in complaint. It turned out really that they had liked the theme and the message, but that they were not ready for such a serious and hard hitting piece of performance at 1.30pm in the park on a Sunday. In the clear vision of retrospect it was not a complaint about the piece itself, but rather a comment showing that the piece had been successful. Those audience members had been strongly touched by the piece. “It hit them hard” as Grainne said. The problem had been that they did not expect that at that time in that place. They were expecting pleasant entertaining fluff, fun and laughter. They got laughter, intrigue, a surprise, deeper meaning, harrowing reality, and a hopeful message in the end.
I am glad Grainne chose to support a more serious piece of street art. I wonder how , now time has passed a little, the people who were not comfortable with it feel? They had asked Grainne if this type of performance really had a place in their community’s festival. Should politics really be brought here? Her response was that all communities are touched by the larger issues in life, even if they don’t realise it. I believe she is right.
As the performer I learnt how to be more delicate in taking the audience with me on such occasions in such pleasant community situations. The second performance had a different rhythm, a different timbre to it. I also learnt to impress upon programmers that this piece is best after 3pm, so people have the chance to digest their lunch before being asked to digest such disturbing facts about the world we live in!
I suppose my answer to the question at the start is that art has a variety of uses or roles… There is art for beauty’s sake; art for laughter’s sake; art with a comment; art which provokes. All are valid. All are art.
That said, I am a little bit proud to be making this work. And thankful to be learning how to lead an audience on such an emotional but important journey.

What do you think is the role of the artist in society?

Political street theatre succeeding, and gaining momentum! Read on….

The momentum grows. Together a difference can be made.

Jeremy Farquar the twisted butler in “The Fool, the cow and the art of corruption”.

 

Two weeks  ago I wrote a blog about political street theatre; observing that in fact audiences do not leave when a piece of performance bites into a serious issue.  http://passion4laughter.com/?page_id=9

This blog is an update on the growing momentum of that political show, Jeremy Farquar the twisted butler in “The Fool, the cow and the art of corruption”.  http://passion4laughter.com/?page_id=67

Over the past 6 months I have been on tour in Australia performing Jeremy Farquar the twisted butler;  plus Joseph D’Amour Bouffon, the lonely clown.

At the end of the Jeremy Farquar show I now invite the audience to come forward and take a piece of paper with my email address. Asking  them to contact me to get the words to write to their MP registering their disgust at the World Arms Trade. During the Australian tour 14 people have contacted me and written to their MPs. I am hoping there are others who have written with their own words, without contacting me.

Step by step I am building a database of these people who have written to me. The future plan is to hook them all up with one another. Together we can get up to some more co-ordinated activism. Please, if you are reading this and this idea interests you…  drop me a line and let me know. I will contact you again in the future with some ideas for action against the World Arms Trade. Contact me at joe@passion4laughter.com.

“Joe, i saw your show during the day in the village at Falls festival and just wanted to say how moved i was. As the show went on i began to get the jist of where you were heading and when it peaked as you balanced and the bubbles filled the air i felt something in the air the i have only felt a very small number of times. I think what you’re doing is truly amazing and i just wanted to thank you personally for giving me and my friends that experience and actively contributing to bettering our troubled world. My warmest regards, Levi Dowsett
~Levi Dowsett, Parramatta, NSW, Australia”

This response has been heart warming. We have even had replies from the MPs already. They assured us that Australia is active in the international community pushing for regulation of the Arms Trade. That is good to hear. Also good is to have dialogues with our MPs so we can regularly ask the question again. Keep them on their toes. Remind them this is an issue close to their constituents’ hearts. We need to push our MPs to push the international community to push the USA and Russia, in particular, to change their policies.

Also heart warming is the response from Street Arts Festivals. When I started creating this show I wondered if audiences would leave when it became confronting and uncomfortable. I have been pleased to see they stay. Also when creating it I wondered if Arts bookers would take the risk and programme a piece with such a theme!

Durham Streets Festival was the first European festival to take that risk in August 2012. Thank you to them for being the first. They took a risk, and I am pleased to say it paid off. The response was brilliant. One audience member hugged me and thanked me for making her cry. Another man had watched all the shows by the various artists, and he thanked me for the best show of the day… something he could get his teeth into. I know the programmer breathed a sigh of relief when he heard that feedback! So much so that he was happy to say the show was

“Probably the most important show ever to have played at our festival!” Steve Cousins, programmer, Durham Streets festival.

I have recently completed a rewrite, with some in verse, plus new breath taking and meaningful tricks, and additions to the sound track. Exciting improvements.

And now the European season’s bookings are taking shape. Mr Farquar has been booked for Ireland and for Switzerland. Both very exciting.

Bookings in Ireland. Very excited by this as Ireland is one of the beacons of hope for the world. They have put down their weapons and engaged in a dialogue of peace. People who were sworn enemies in the past, now discuss and solve problems together as members of parliament.

I mention Ireland within the show. It will be amazing to be performing those lines directly to Irish citizens in Ireland itself.

Come and check it out if you are nearby. June 1st and 2nd at the Greystones Arts Festival in County Wicklow, Ireland.

Bookings in Switzerland too. This is very exciting as Switzerland is mentioned in the show. As an example of a country that truly has a defence force. A force that will not set foot on the soil of another country, but which is ready to defend if any other country sets foot on Swiss soil.

I find it difficult to swallow that the UK has a Ministry of Defence. By definition defence is against aggression. I find it very difficult to accept that we should be militarily present in other countries when we are not invited there as a liberation force. If we have not been invited there, it follows that we are in fact an invasion force, not a defence force. An invasion force with another agenda.

So to perform those lines to a Swiss crowd will be very interesting too. Come and watch at the Sion Festival des Arts de la Rue, June 7th and 8th.

Also in the pipeline are BoomTown Fair and  Eastern Electric. Both these festivals are in August in the UK.

Thence the plan is to take to the streets of Edinburgh again to continue spreading the word. After that is still fluid.

If you are, or know, a programmer for an Arts Festival, please take the risk and book this important and inspirational show.

 

If you are, or know, an artist who is wondering whether they should try out something challenging, please encourage them to do so.

 

Thanks for reading. Please get in touch and let me know what you think. Joe@passion4laughter.com.

Joe

 

Can street theatre be political and succeed?

Can street theatre be political and succeed?

Will a street audience stay when a piece of theatre becomes confronting?

When I trained at Lecoq 24 years ago Alain Moulaut was teaching us the writing modules. He used to challenge us every now and again with the question “What do you want to say? As a writer what do you have to say to the world?”

At the age of 21 I didn’t really know. Something about males doing tricks to impress and attract females… hence Joseph D’Amour Bouffon. www.passion4laughter.com. http://passion4laughter.com/?page_id=62

At the age of 40 I remembered Alain’s words.

By this time in my life I had enough grey hair that 25 year olds would hold a door open for every now and again. I figured perhaps by this time my experience might add up to something possibly worth listening to.

One image immediately sprang to my mind’s eye… an old poster which was very much part of my early politicisation… an old poster released by CND in the early eighties. It had a picture of a helmetted skull and a bomb with the words “It has been estimated that to feed, water, and educate all those in need in the world would cost $17 billion per year. It is a huge sum of money. About as much as the world spends on arms every two weeks”.

Shocking. And still 20 years later, it jumped from my consciousness.

Presently it is more like 30 billion to feed, water and educate… and 30 billion spent on arms in eight days.

At the age of 40, I was able as a street performer to attract, pull together, and entertain large crowds of people.

There is a stock line in the street performing profession that goes something like “Ladies and gentlemen, now I have you gathered together, I would like to talk to you about Jesus!”.

I planned to change that to …”now I have you gathered together I would like to talk to you about the world arms trade!”

Would it work? Would they leave or would they stay? I suspected that they would leave as it would be uncomfortable for them. A street audience can be very fickle.

The first booking was the wonderful Woodford Folk Festival. During a rehearsal I was on the 7ft unicycle juggling two tennis rackets and a baby strapped to a submachine gun. My wife came out and asked me how on earth I was going to make that funny! That was the task ahead. That was the tight rope to walk.

So was born Jeremy Farquar the twisted butler in “The Fool, the cow and the art of corruption”. http://passion4laughter.com/?page_id=67

After the Woodford performances I needed another section to the show. A final section which analysed what we can do. A section which touched on hope. as opposed to leaving the audience in shock and digesting the horrific facts of 30 billion dollars spent on arms in 8 days.

The slackrope was a trick which delivered an image of humans holding control of the balance of the world, with the past behind us, the future in front and the present held in balance.

At the age of 42 I had a new skill to learn; the slackrope.

Life gives us unexpected gifts doesn’t it? In fact I now stand on the slackrope, balance a globe of the world on my head, and juggle three symbols of actions we can take towards a more peaceful world: a human heart (forgiveness and conflict resolution); A pen (the power of writing to your MP or signing petitions); and a kitchen sieve (to remind us to filter the bulldust we are fed by the media). Its quite a trick.

Audience members have thanked me for bringing them to tears!

http://passion4laughter.com/?page_id=67

I have now performed the show at festivals, street festivals, and the street at Edinburgh Fringe. To varying demographics from mature and arty, through to younger and smashed. At times from 11am in a market square to 1.45am in a big music festival.

From all these various audiences the reactions have been intense, heart warming and positive.

Even when the show changes from curiously amusing entertainment to harrowing edutainment the audience stay. They stop cheering, and go very quiet, but they stay.

I now have people emailing me after performances asking for letters to send to their MPs.

I am pleased to say that my fears were misplaced. I underestimated the general street audience. They do not only want froth and funny. But rather, people appreciate a show with substance.

As the final scene says…. There is hope!

 

Thanks for reading. Please get in touch and let me know what you think.

Joe

When is an audience not an audience?

When is an audience not an audience?

When you think you know them.

Momentary realisations.

 

My impressions when the crowd rolled in. They were very young.

I had been told The Falls Festival was going to get very trashy. “Mindless”.

I found myself wondering with a wry grin whether these people would even understand the meaning of irony.

So comfortable and clean and healthy and wealthy they were. Were they indeed mindless?

 

It could make performing a show pivoting on the idea of irony even more ironic …. perhaps.

Or it might make them easier prey for the edgy wit of Mr Jeremy Farquar, twisted butler to the rich but not famous?

http://passion4laughter.com/?page_id=67

Or it might not work at all.

 

Time would tell.

 

For the meantime a sea of tents and vehicles grew quickly. Surrounding the main arena and The Village, where I was performing Jeremy Farquar the twisted butler in “The Fool, the cow and the art of corruption”. http://passion4laughter.com/?page_id=67

The Village, organised, created, led by Ian Pidd of Melbourne, is an enclave of the bizarre and wonderful. Creativity abounds in many forms.

Ian Pidd takes risks and it pays off.

 

First performance was soon after The Village openned its gates. A clear cool sunny afternoon. On a flattish area of grass in front of the stage with a gentle slope rising in front for the audience.

The first show went very well. So did the others. Responses were passionate and motivated. Never mindless. One volunteer was extremely smashed and very crude, but still simply playful at his root.

After another show a young chap even wanted to engage in real debate about the possibility of change in our society, responsibilities, roles etc… so we did! With hugs.

I found the audiences to be attentive, thoughtful and reactive. These young adult people definitely had minds. Thankfully.

The last performance was at 3.30am. The middle of the night. Ian had warned me of a potential difficulty I would encounter… that the audience would not be able to concentrate for long; given their altered state combined with so much distraction in The Village at that time.

I condensed the show a little. It was punchy and effective. Mr Farquar received a strong response.

Ian, I am proud to say, thought “to hold such an audience was nigh on a miracle”.

This audience were a bit bendy; they found it hard to stand up or stand still. Still they were focused and responsive.

 

At the end of “The Fool, the cow and the art of corruption” I invite the audience to come forward and take a piece of paper from me. On it is my email address and sometimes the address of another website / organisation active against the world arms trade. I ask the audience to write to their MP or get in touch with me for an example letter. Every show many inspired people come forward and take the details. After each festival I receive a wave of emails.

Combined, the audiences from The Falls Festival were above average in their numbers getting back to me!

 

My preconceptions were turned on their head. These young adult people showed themselves to be playful, thoughtful, active.

 

As a performer I was reminded to be in the moment in the performance with your audience. Not to hold any preconceptions in your mind. Step into the play of the piece. Propose, respond. It will unfold as it should. Organically in the moment of that performance.

 

As a middle aged man I was reminded to stay open and not become a judgemental grey hair acting on hearsay.

The youth of today! The youth of today! The youth of today love a great party, and still have their brains and minds very much switched on.

 

Just the same as the youth of yesteryear, the youth of myyear, and the youth of tomorrow.

Good luck to them in solving the challenges in the future they will find.

I must get in touch with Mr Ian Pidd. I would enjoy performing for those young folk again!

 

 

“MR WOW” – or – How to fit creating an unexpected new show into an already busy life.

The process of creating a new show while still juggling a very busy life!

                                                  “MR WOW” 

When I left the Australian season in May 2012 I had no expectation of a new show for the coming UK season.

I was focused on pushing forward my newest show : Jeremy Farquar the twisted butler in “The Fool the cow and the art of corruption”. www.passion4laughter.com

Any time left was focused on time with my boys and wife.

Soon after returning to the UK I got in touch with a festival organiser I had worked for the year before, and suddenly I had a booking for the end of the season (October) with the request for something new.

Blimey!  A busy season ahead of me. Two young kids. A support role in my wife’s business. And now a new show to be created!

Gotta make hay while the sun shines, so I said yes to the gig.

My challenge was that I knew I had no big block of time free for rehearsal. How to fit in creating something new?

 

Here is the solution that worked for me…

A quick brainstorm outline of a structure – done in June while the kids were asleep.

A further brainstorm on each section of the initial brainstorm to a gig- squeezed in on a train.

Buying props in charity shops everywhere we went – ongoing.

Flesh out each section with a basic run through – these were sometimes very rough indeed. But they were a start. One was fitted in in a carpark while on tour! Make some quick notes afterwards about successes and targets of each section.

Source and order various props online. Much of this was done on the move.

Spend a few sessions on Itunes, or another music sharing site, to create a first draft soundtrack.

Return to each section and run it through as many times as the section of time you have will allow – sometimes this was once, sometimes three or four.

Choose a soundtrack order and run all the sections. Just keep going even if it is more like a stagger through than a run through. Make notes of successes and targets for improvement.

I got to run it twice before the gig.

 

What I had by the time of the gig was just enough. I am lucky to have been trained at L’ecole de Theatre Physique Jacques Lecoq in Paris. There we used the process of autocours… the creation and performance of a piece of theatre every week. Through this process the performer becomes used to walking on stage with sometimes little more than one improvisation as a form of rehearsal.

On to the stage, a piece of muddy field in the UK autumn, I walked.

The first show hung together. I missed a trick or two but the audience did not know that. They laughed and had a good time.

I was fortunate that the booker saw it and loved it.

 

From there it was onward and upward. 10 days of two shows per day.

By the end I had “Mr WOW and the amazing bubble show!”

Its a lot of fun. Audiences said it made their sides ache with laughter, and that they want to come back to see it again!

 

Within the whole process of creation I think I had a total of 5 hrs active rehearsal and run through. Clearly Lecoq was right all along. We do not necessarily need weeks in a rehearsal space.

From my original feelings of trepidation and mild panic I have ended up with another pure fun piece of clown theatre.

 

As my Australian cousins say…Awesome!