“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!

 

To risk or not to risk? A leap of faith can pay off.

A leap of faith. The pleasure of mentoring professional performers.

Recently I had the pleasure, honour, of mentoring Nina Reisinger (www@zackenzilli.at) in the creation of her new street theatre show.

Nina wanted to create a static piece this time. She has been working as a walkabout artist for a decade now. The new show had been in her heart for a few years.

She had even had publicity photos done, but had not moved from ideas to actually creating a piece.

We worked together at a street arts festival in Northern Germany. On one of the days three different groups of artists were bused across the border to Poland where we each performed on the promenade for the beautifully playful polish crowds.

Nina must have liked what she saw in my foolish french character clown, Joseph D’Amour Bouffon, for a few weeks later I received an email asking if I helped people create.

Being a trained teacher, teacher trainer and mentor I of course replied in the affirmative. I love helping people of all ages learn. I find the buzz from this work as strong as, and possibly more profound than, performing. In schools, workshops, festivals and solo.

It is a nerve wracking experience for the mentor as well as the mentee. For Nina she had only seen me perform a couple of times. And we had had a connection of artistic souls while working together. Nina put her faith in this and agreed to part with some of her hard earned cash to come to the UK and work with me, a comparative stranger.

From my side I knew nothing of what Nina had in mind, and I was set up as the guy who was going to help her realise a dream. A personal dream is wonderful when realised, but deeply perturbing when not so…

We both took the leap of faith. Every creation holds a leap of faith.

Mixed emotions: I was confident in my past as a teacher and mentor. I have been told on a number of occassions that I have inspired people. But I was also nervous…would I be what she wanted as a mentor? Would I connect with the ideas she had thus far? Would we arrive at an impass?

The hall was booked and the date of Nina’s arrival approached.

Nina is a professional. She listened to feedback intently, and worked on it hard; really hard. So the progress was surprisingly fast. After a run through I would suggest a point. By the end of the next work session that feedback was chewed up and thoroughly digested. So on we roared to the next point. It was a fast and furious, energising and draining experience. Within three days we had a show which now needed an audience! My work for this stage of the process was done. And I could see from the light in Nina’s eyes that she was happy.

What we ended up creating is a quirky, personal, skill filled, funny and touching piece of street theatre. A piece which jumps beyond the generic. A piece which will keep Nina busy and feed her heart and soul for some time to come.

What have I taken from this experience? Both Nina and I took leaps of faith; in our own and in each other’s skills and experience.

Here is my tip. Its simple. Take the leap of faith. Do your best. And the likelihood is you will deliver something of quality.

Nina got a new and original show. I got the warm glow from having truly helped someone realise a dream.

We both got a friend.

Removing clothes in a comedy fashion

Yesterday was a great day.

In the warmth of the morning October sun I had a challenge on my hands… while on the slackline, to remove my jacket, shirt and trousers. This was the first time to try this trick for a new show. I had seen it done by my friend Kwabana Lynsey and so knew there was a particlularly tricky bit if the trousers got stuck!

So, with my two year old son watching I climbed aboard.

All went well. Jacket off easilly. Shirt also smooth and quick. Dropped to the ground with a flourish.

Trousers…zip…good….button…good. Down they slide.

Remember I am balancing 5 ft up on a slackline here. Trousers down by my ankles. In my pants and shoes and socks. Nothing else. With my neighbours enjoying their view with a morning cuppa.

Of course a certain Irish man’s law kicked in and my foot got stuck. I had to attempt the tricky manoeurvre of hand to foot while on a slackline. Lower lower lower and woooaaah, mind out 2 year old, I am coming down fast. Control and direct the fall. Roll on landing to minimise impact. Safely fallen…like an angel from heaven. hoho.

Two more attempts later and two falls later the brilliant idea of baggier trousers hits me. Great.

And that’s it! At 10am yesterday morning, success.

For the first time, to the backing of Katrina and the Waves, I removed my clothes in a comedy fashion while 5ft up on a slackline!

I truly love my job. 🙂

One great pleasure of my job!

Over the past few days I have started the rehearsal and creation process for a new clown show.

This has resulted in my acquiring/purchasing : a small yellow kids paddling pool; 2 plastic pigs; an air propelled rocket which shoots 300 feet in the air; a large old teapot; hoops bigger than humans for huge bubbles; 100 double latex gloves; some gold sequin shorts….

And all of this is tax deductable.

There can’t be many jobs such a list would be accepted by the taxman!

It makes me smile. 🙂

 

Inspired by Youth Circus

I am presently in Newcastle Upon Tyne working with the energetic team at Five Ring Circus. Our objective for the few days is to move from silent clown to using sound for expression. Not words as such. Sounds.

I have been inspired by the openness of these younger learners. Like sponges they have soaked up the idea and are avidly working away, creating acts, communicating alongside their chosen skills, exploring and being brilliantly vulnerable in their working processes.

It is jaw dropping to see the progress they have made in only 3 workshops. And I truly look forward to our ‘rumble in the park’ creation on Sunday which will hopefully be filmed and uploaded.

Circus and circustheatre cetainly has a rich and energetic future up here in the North East. My deep respect to the adult professionals and parents supprting them all and taking them forward.

We adults can learn a lot here about losing our egos and working together to create.