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#6 The Clown Diaries - WILD HORSES

It's Wednesday the 25th of November.

And it's cold.

Bloody cold.

The Christmas season is almost upon us in Etampes! In other words: Christmas lights have been hung rather morosely, not yet lit, over the town and there is now a terrifying life size electronic polar bear that "greets" you as you enter the supermarket.

Other than that, nothing has changed.

Back in our house life is continuing normally. When I say normally, I mean I no longer lose my temper when I see a small wind instrument in our kitchen and the boys are finally used to seeing me in a constant state of undress or running around the house dressed as a Shark.

Tom turns 26 tomorrow and is encouraging us all to learn a dance routine to perform collectively at the weekend. Greg has had his Afro trimmed so it is now rectangular and thus he resembles a guitarist from an NME indie band circa 2007. Ryan has been "getting hench" at Abs Club and practising walking in a straight line. In order to make sure I don't die from Bordeaux induced Cirrhosis by the end of 2015 I've quit drinking until the end of term. This means that my Macaron intake has gone up ten fold... so diabetes now looks plausable.

In the house we take turns to cook every night. This means I'm getting up-close and personal with all sorts of vegetables in order not to bore my flatmates with my dishes. I have resorted to not telling my flatmates what I am putting in the food until they have eaten it... It's for both that element of surprise and to ensure that they will actually risk eating it.

My favourite new discovery is Mash potato made with new potatoes, coconut milk, beetroot and mixed with finely chopped chillies. It looks as Mr Blobby has been condensed into little pieces and it is really delicious. It took my flatmates several glasses of wine to have the courage to try it.

BACK AT SCHOOL it has been GO GO GO.

For the first years studying Neutral Mask, class has been intense and challenging. There is a lot of text to learn, from an infamous Gaulian greek translation that all students need to know word perfectly, to speeches from Medea and Antigone. First rule of studying Neutral Mask with Gaulier : LEARN THE TEXT. If it is not WORD PERFECT you are in serious trouble.

Before we start playing with the text and performing it, Gaulier has been teaching us the 'Elements' - a huge part of the module Neutral Mask. Every day he has us on the stage in groups of seven, in Neutral Mask, with the challenge of performing an 'element' - either 'Wind', 'Fire', 'Tree', 'Steel', 'A Tempest' or 'Glue'. Each element requires the performer to use all their body to embody it, in a different and unique way each time, playing with shape, rhythm and voice. The idea is to use these 'elements' and their components as the base for building characters and creating conflict on stage.

As someone who considers themselves neither a dancer, body confident, elegant or physically dexterous, this task has been a dissappointing nightmare every day. I was rubbish as water, I was crap as a Tree, I was 'fucking boring' as Glue and I was horrible as Wind. Part of the problem was my voice.

But still, I've been getting up each time, because, as wise man Samuel Becket once said 'Ever tried. Ever Failed. Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better' and if there is one thing Gaulier teaches you, it's how to fail.

Gaulier is obsessed with the concept of being 'beautiful' on stage and showing the audience your true beauty. Your beauty arises from taking pleasure on stage both playing a character and being with the audience - yet, with the elements, my problem was that I was far too concerned about doing the element 'right', and sounding 'right' to be with the audience and enjoy the act of performing.

However, last Thursday a huge change came. Not just in my body, but in my confidence and since then, I've felt completely uplifted.

Juan, rather than ask our class to do an element, asked us to be wild horses.

If there is one thing I love more than anything, it's pretending to be an animal...

I sprinted up on stage, alongside Karen (a former Olympic horse rider), Ryan, Oliver (a young flexible history-buff Tom Cruise look-a-like), Hannah (Australian Elizabeth Taylor). We were on stage for 45 minutes, drenched in sweat and breathless by the end - running, leaping, bucking, fighting, biting, rolling around on the hay on the floor, doing everything one can try and do. Juan was coaxing us on, giving feedback, shouting commands, at one point even bringing on a whip and rope and trying to 'capture' the horses on stage. (It was a bit like a weird stage version of the film The Horse Whisperer, except we were ALL Pilgrim). Slowly as time went by, we 'morphed back into humans', still keeping the characteristics of the horse, and using them to become and create a character, before then applying the text to this persona.

Without going in to it to much, I think it was one of the funnest afternoons of my life. I may not be very good with Elements, but I fucking love being a horse, (I put this down to summers of playing with my little sister in the garden pretending to be unicorns).

And for the first time since term started I got a 'Pretty good' from the teacher, and crucially, my classmates pointed out that I started to be 'beautiful' on stage, as I had started to relax and 'give something'. I was surprised, and elated.

Since then, I've been having a whale of time.

Like when I am performing stand-up on stage, for the first time in Neutral Mask I have become open in using my body, being me, and playing with an audience. Saying that, I could and may be totally crap today or tomorrow, but yesterday I was good, and that is an important thing to remember - I know I now can be beautiful on stage, so it is trying to remember that feeling and harness it again.

We are doing Lions today. I can't wait.


And another thing....

A podcast that I recorded with Viggo & Johnny from second year has been published on iTunes and Soundcloud. V & J do a podcast called 'Talking to You' - in each episode they interview a different student to discover how and why they came to be at the school. Viggo and Johnny were very sneaky during our podcast as they managed to get me very drunk - giving me both red wine and cognac - causing me to probably talk more openly about my body insecurities that I usually would have on a normal podcast. However, we discuss animatedly about the course and Gaulier, so if you are interested by all means give it and all the other podcasts a listen.

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