As I write this, I have just come back from seeing a nurse who has provided me with the last of three large batches of vaccinations. This is all part of my preparation for travelling to Cambodia on Saturday, where I will be working on clown projects for a month. As someone who has a fear of needles, having a dozen needles poked into my arm makes things feel very real.
Here’s an actual picture of my arm right now:
It seemed like a distant pipe dream when we first sat down to discuss the potential for this project almost a year ago. Since then we have received funding from the Arts Council and British Council to make the project a reality and I have today received a schedule of every week of the project while I am out there. I am flying to Cambodia to work with Epic Arts, an inclusive arts organisation that has just the most inspiring mission statement:
Epic Arts believes together we can build a society in which every person counts.
What a wonderful aim and a great organisation to be working with.
During my month out there I will be working alongside Epic Encounters, a group of talented performance artists with and without disabilities. We will spend our time together exploring the power of clowning to communicate across boundaries. To say that I am excited about the potential of this collaboration is an understatement. I still let out excited mime-screams of joy when I think about it. The ethos of everyone I have met at Epic Arts feels really at home with everything I hold dear, and I am already forging some wonderful friendships. But why am I trying to explain the spirit of Epic Arts to you, when you can experience it for yourself by watching this video:
How awesome is that?! There is so much talent here that I feel totally honoured to be invited out there to share what I know.
Our relationship first began in 2014 when Epic Encounters were on tour in the UK with a dance performance of theirs. As part of their trip they came to see my solo clown show ‘The Weatherman’, which I was performing in the Vaults under Waterloo station. We agreed to meet after the show in the venue’s bar. Picture the scene. We had never met before and didn’t understand each other’s languages. I was fully expecting it to be quite awkward, with us all standing in silence with nothing to say and no way to say it.
What a fool I was being! I was forgetting that I am a mime artist and – as many in their group are deaf – they are quite used to communicating with those who don’t speak their language. We found it perfectly easy to make ourselves understood and had a great time together. We kept in touch and the rest is history.
But enough about the past, it’s the future that I’m more interested in. I’m in full preparation mode right now. I have spent the customary two hours turning the flat inside out to find my passport (it was on the shelf next to the Cambodia guidebook – I had put it there previously so I didn’t forget it), I’ve prepared my visa documents, and I’ve spent a whopping £140 on anti-malaria pills. Ouch. It’s not that I don’t think the pills are worth it, more that there are infinitely more fun things to spend that kind of money on. For example, that could buy over a thousand choc ices, or 36 pints of beer in London, or 44 pints in Yorkshire, or one of those snazzy Amazon Echo things that you can shout at to get your lights to turn on or off.
Ooo, the future is here!
I expect the next month to be both artistically challenging and artistically fulfilling. The performers I am going to be working with have a fantastic track record of work so I’m sure I will learn a lot from directing them. It won’t all be plain sailing. I am not particularly good at dealing with hot climates, my celtic skin doesn’t cope well with sun, and for some reason I attract mosquito bites like I have sent them all a personal invite.
Despite these challenges, I’m so looking forward to this month. This blog will be my way of recording the lessons I have learnt and sharing them with you all. Next time you hear from me, I will be in Cambodia. As for now, I’m off to pack …
Main photo by DeeMakMak