Identifying and exploring key principles of the clown in theatre – a practice-led approach

Van Wyk, Klara (2020-03)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2020.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In this study, an artistic research methodology is employed to identify principles of clowning as they are practiced in contemporary clown training workshops, to then offer applications of these within a South African theatre context. Autoethnographic accounts and fictional narratives offer an exploration of the practice of clowning from a personal perspective in multiple roles as clown performer, student, educator and observer, supplemented by an interpretive analysis of existing literature. The past decade has seen a significant increase in allusions to the term ‘clown theatre’ on formal theatre and performance platforms, as well as in critical and practice-based literature. This selfproclaimed category of theatre is yet to be sufficiently theorised and historicised. Both ‘clown’ and ‘theatre’ remain persistently contested and evolving practices. In this study, the term ‘clown theatre’ is employed as a springboard from which to interrogate the complexities of the clown’s presence in contemporary theatre, with the aim of generating dialogue and supporting further innovation in practice. Six case studies of contemporary performance identified as or aligned with ‘clown theatre’ are presented to explore the terminology and practices employed by practitioners. The study uses participant-observation methods to understand principles of clowning as they are currently grounded in training approaches focused on laughter as a marker of success, indicating audience appreciation. Particular attention is paid to practitioners Jacques Lecoq and Phillipe Gaulier and their lineage of clown teaching as it has emerged in the methods employed by contemporary pedagogues such as Jon Davison and Mick Barnfather. Secondary sources are then used to position these clown principles in relation to the historical presence of clown figures on stage, with an emphasis on Bertolt Brecht’s conceptualisation of the clown as protagonist. By critically addressing the multi-faceted approaches to engendering laughter within clown training and performance, this practice-led study uncovers the benefits and challenges that lie in translating clowning into contemporary theatre practice.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: In hierdie ondersoek word ’n artistieke navorsingsmetodologie gebruik om die beginsels van narrery te identifiseer en moontlike toepassings hiervan in ‘n Suid-Afrikaanse konteks aan te toon. ’n Selfrefleksiewe ontginning van narpraktyk vanuit my perspektief en spesifieke rolle as narkunstenaar, student en waarnemer word aangevul deur ’n interpretatiewe analise van bestaande literatuur. Oor die afgelope dekade was daar ’n beduidende toename in sinspelings op die term ‘narteater’ in formele teater en optredeplatforms soos kunstefeeste, maar ook in kritiese en praktykgebaseerde literatuur (Peacock 2009; Danzig 2007; Polunin 2015). Daar moet nog na behore oor dié selfverklaarde teaterkategorie geteoretiseer word en dit moet ook nog histories geposisioneer word. Beide ‘nar’ en ‘teater’ bly omstrede en ontwikkelende praktyke. Die term ‘narteater’ word as vertrekpunt geneem vanwaar die kompleksiteit van die nar se teenwoordigheid in kontemporêre teater ondersoek word met die uiteindelik doel om gesprek te inisieer en verdere vernuwing in die praktyk te ondersteun. Kontemporêre narbeginsels word bestudeer as synde geanker te wees in opleidingsbenaderings wat fokus op lag as merker van sukses aangesien dit die gehoor se waardering aandui. Spesifieke aandag word geplaas op die herkoms van naronderrig soos beïnvloed deur die paraktisyns Jacques Lecoq en Phillipe Gaulier en in verband gebring met die analise van metodes wat deur hedendaagse pedagoë soos Jon Davison and Mick Barnfather gebruik word. Sekondêre bronne word ondersoek ten einde die narbeginsels aan te stip in hulle verhouding met historiese narfigure wat op die verhoog teenwoordig is. Bertolt Brecht se konseptualisering van die nar as protagonis word ook verken. Deur krities na die veelkantige benaderings tot die bewerkstelling van lag binne naropleiding en - optrede te kyk, lê hierdie verhandeling die uitdagings bloot wat gevind word in die omskakeling van hedendaagse narrery na teaterpraktyk.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/108064
This item appears in the following collections: