“Why do you do what you do with your life?”
This was a question that I was asked a number of years ago by an incredible clown who has now become a close friend. This wasn’t idle small talk. She asked it with the utmost sincerity and importance.
On the face of it, this seems like an easy question. But the more you think about it, the harder it becomes. Each answer you can think of can be met with a further “But why?” Before too long, this question can have you in an existential crisis – rocking backwards and forwards while hiding under under a table.
[This is a lemur staring into the distance while having an existential crisis.]
After many years pondering this question, this is the closest I’ve got to a real answer:
“Because the search for that feeling of wonder and magic is so addictive, I don’t know how to live without it.”
I know, I know. It’s hardly profound and life changing. But who said it needed to be?! Finding the source of that sense of magic is what I do with my life. And that makes me happy.
[My attempt at an inspiring internet meme. Original photo by Dave Purcell]
For the last few weeks, I have been working with Epic Encounters, a full-time inclusive performance group in Kampot, Cambodia. We are creating a clown show together – a project that began after they saw my show in London two years ago and found the art form interesting. My ego can never say no to flattery, so when they asked me to come and work with them I jumped at the chance.
Our time together is brief, so I have been pushing them incredibly hard. If you have any mental images of me travelling around the world to do charitable deeds, please put them out of your head. The men and woman from Epic Encounters are pros so we are creating professional-standard work.
Tuesday morning was our first attempt at writing an actual clown scene for the show. Despite our short time together, I spent the entirety of our first week getting them into the clown’s mindset, with no reference to the show we would perform. We spent every moment together discovering the playfulness and outlook of a clown through a series of exercises – many of which were adapted to suit the mixture of deaf, disabled and non-disabled artists in the group.
[The Epic Encounters team in rehearsal.]
Tuesday morning was the test to see if all of last week’s hard work had paid off. I set them a task to create a scene of 5 men trying to woo the same lady. To cut a long story short, with just 30 minutes to put a scene together, they had me crying with laughter. The week spent working on discovering the clown’s mindset had paid off. Their scene had the depth, ingenuity and playfulness of an old Charley Chase movie.
[One of Charley Chase’s most popular films, Mighty Like a Moose.]
Never underestimate the importance of playfulness. Not just in clowning, but in whatever you do. The playful mindset is a creative mindset, and it opens you up to endless new possibilities.
People travel the world in order to “find themselves” or discover magic. Travelling to Cambodia and discovering the same sense of playfulness in my performing colleagues here has reminded me of a valuable lesson: that the wonder and joy that people so desperately seek is not something that is found at the top of the mountain or in a sunrise. No, it’s in a state of mind – something within us all.
This is where the magic is made.
Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, I wish you all the best,
This project is kindly supported by:
Potions photo by firstname.lastname@example.org