Augustes and Bouffons?

What has happened to Augustes and Bouffons in New Wave Cirques? Chip and Vee visit Cirque Mueslei (no reference to a real circus but a view of ‘new wave’ ideas!.)

(Dee) amazing – unbelievable – a wow approach – gob smacking..

(Chip) So that is what you think? I was totally lost after the first half. Went right over my head I mean, what was it about? The glossy programme said; all the excitement of the Big Top aboard your cruise liner, sit back and enjoy the spectacle’. It was nothing like a cruise liner set, I suppose we are the travelling guests? Where was the compere, where was the welcome, where was any production! Starts off with the acrobats posing as bell-boys and floor cleaners! Should please the circus friends association for none of the acts or artistes were given names or even credits, a mish-mash of talent with no meaningful promotional sequences or costuming. And the clowns! Dear oh dear! This new wave approach in full flood so to speak. It seems that the new way of entering a show area – no longer called ‘a ring’ is to walk with a kind of leg or hip impediment and as for make-up forget it! There was nothing absolutely nothing for children that are the modern trends now, and as for circus a word now discreetly hidden from view. Could you understand the comedy such as it was? Alternative was at least a descriptive word!

(Dee) You fail to understand the modern artistic directional approach for ‘new circus’, you are a bit of a stick-in-the mud Chip! This set idea was to transport the audience away from its drab town environment to the romantic ocean and to portray the artistes as being part of the audience and not necessarily professional and this is why the act names are avoided. Likewise the costuming is designed to be rather drab as if they are in rehearsal mode. This then explains why the acts have no particular sequence of inclusion to deliberately appear as you say, as a mish-mash- of activity. A bit chaotic if you like. Because the show is supposed to be in rehearsal mode the interacting humour is also to appear as trial and error in sequence and the jesters appear surprised if a laugh is generated. Of course their use of the audience within the performing area is a must even to the point of belittlement and to reverse the old out of date formula where the audience are supposed to laugh at the clown and persona, the modern ideal instead is to imply the audience is rather thick and the jester laughs at them! Of course if they do get a laugh they look surprised and then make sure that gag is left out of the next show. You really must get with it and move with the times Chip.

(Chip) Well thanks for the explanation Dee I now understand that glamour, beautiful girls and costuming, proud acts with titles expertly announced by a fine Ring manager, with the greatest of musical score to fit, brilliant clowning and slapstick that inspires children to belly laugh without baseness or sexism, a sequence of performers that are designed to fit the show and flow in perfect segueway from one act to the next that would inspire a standing ovation at the close of the show is totally old hat and I do need to modernize. I must read more of Quarter Pole to combat this sinking feeling!

(Vee) then you must consider this programme item from the celebrated clown Toynoksy about the merit or meaning of real clowning.

“Clowns are born when society has a need for them. Remember that Chaplin and Keaton were most popular during the Depression. And that the Indians say that clowns appear when the leaders get out of hand!” This quote by the Canadian clown trainer Richards Pochinko does not come by accident. One figure is celebrating a comeback – the clown, spreading joy, laughter, and playfulness in the midst of trauma, despair, and boredom. It is the clown who is one of the last reliable figures trusted to promise hope, empathy, and innocence, after traffickers, border guards, and bureaucrats and politicians have done their job. After an inexorable decline of the circus as one of his natural habitats, the clown is back, probably stronger than ever. And the reasons for that are very simple. First of all, the clown is innocent, he has no interest. Whatever emotion he is driven by, he shows it. There is no mask, no veil, no hiding. The clown is naked in his emotionality. Second, the clown only exists in the here and now. There is no past he is bound to, and there is no future he longs for. He exists only in the here and now. Third, the magic he is born by is his connection to the audience. If there is no one watching him, he simply doesn’t exist, and he will disappear. And if he is unable to connect emotionally to this audience, his performance will be seen as flawed and fake, the most horrible judgment for him. And finally, much of the charisma of the clown is in his unavoidable confrontation with failure. Whatever he does, he is always at risk, and it is the innocent and unveiled struggle that makes him adorable for the audience. The innocent, emotional connection with the audience, the presence he is in, and his existential struggle are the essence of what that figure still brings to the world. And he is back at an essential moment.

(Chip) well that is even more complicated than the show we have just seen – what is he on about? I remember old Jim Rangler in reply to one of his clowns talking above the stratosphere, ‘very good FizBang – I want you to stay out of the last show today and double journey with the old Matador, the breaks have been adjusted. 


Author: Tom Sandow

born into showbusiness - full life entertaining, management, agency, engager of acts and artistes - show producer presenter.

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