By Paul Couch
While many would point to Westminster and claim we’re already blessed with one, London is to get its own Clown Festival from June 2016.
In the first festival of its kind in London, 34 shows will be seen over 10 days, featuring highly acclaimed artists, alongside up-and-coming new talent from over 10 nationalities, hosted at London’s newest Arts Hub, The Omnitorium at Manor House, from the 10-19 June. Organisers say the London Clown Festival will celebrate physical comedy and clown-influenced contemporary performance, challenging assumptions about the word “clown” and bringing highly entertaining work from across the world to the Capital.
Participants include BAFTA and Chortle Award Nominee Spencer Jones,Total Theatre Award for InnovationnomineeJamie Woodand multiple award winnerLucy Hopkins.
In recent years, there has been anupsurge in comedy and theatre of performers who have been influencedby the teachings of legendary physical performance trainers Lecoq and Gaulier. Many of these students have gone on to become celebrated award-winning artists. But “Clown” remains somewhat of an enigma to the public who still sometimes think of the stereotypical image of the genre as found in circus performance, complete with squirty flower and oversized shoes, or Tim Curry’s terrifying performance as the demon-clown, Pennywise, in Steven King’s IT.
Festival co-founders Dan Lees and Henry Maynard are keen to distance themselves from the stereotypes. Lees commented: “We are very excited to present London’s inaugural clown festival. Over recent years, we have seen an increased awareness and interest in clowning among performers and a heightened enthusiasm from audiences for artists such as Dr Brown, Spencer Jones and Boy With Tape on His Face.
“Clowns are often portrayed in popular culture as horrifying figures or children’s party entertainers and because of these associations many performers do not identify themselves as clowns. This prevents audiences from finding other artists doing similarwork. Stand-up, improv, cabaret, these are all easy to find and have their fair share of festivals and although clowning can be found in all these genres it does not have a festival of its own, until now! Our shows are predominately for adults and thevast majority do not involve red noses, big shoes or extreme make up.”
Maynard added: “The aim of the LCF is to build on this new appetite audiences have for clown shows and introduce them to all the emerging acts and performers on this vibrant scene. We have programmed a sensational lineup bringing together artists from all over the world who embody the principles of this timeless art form. Also, we have made it a priority to keep the tickets competitively priced to encourage audiences to try something new.”