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Finding the Funny

Every time I am to direct a new CWBSA performance, I feel like I am looking at a blank page. Where to begin? Where are we going to “find the funny”? How is the alchemy of the team going to work together? All very important questions that can sometimes keep me up at night, because I want to always create a show that speaks directly to the audience/community we are trying to reach. This time our audience were to be predominantly teenagers (and primary school learners) located in Potchefstroom and Mafikeng, in the North West.

I just spent an intensive 5 days in Johannesburg developing this new clown show alongside four wonderfully talented and versatile performers: Sibusiso Khambule, Xolani Magengenene, Sizwe Vilakazi and Toni Thord-Gray. We shared our talents and skills on the rehearsal floor, we learnt new songs, we learnt Tswana, we worked through creative blocks and most importantly we made each other laugh! The show created addresses parent-child relationships, particularly addressing the way we communicate with one another and how we express our emotions, with a specific focus on dealing with anger and anger management. Through play and laughter, the clowns bring to life the joys and challenges of being adolescents and caregivers. As I said, this performance specifically targets teenagers – an age that has its challenges to perform to due to the immense peer pressure to be viewed as cool and aloof. Performance teams are always a little tentative performing to this age, because how do we know we will make them laugh?

We had the opportunity to have a performance for a group of young children and teenagers, in Johannesburg before the team were to travel to the North West. This is a great time to gauge how the show will reach its audience, and will it have its intended outcome. As the show started, I held my breath, waiting for the first laugh, the first moment of connection between clowns and audience… it did not take long. I deeply exhaled, while during the next 40 minutes the children were laughing hysterically, were singing along, and were begging to be chosen as a volunteer. I sat in amazement as I shared their communal experience, as I could share in their smiles, laughter and excitement, I felt privileged to be able to share this with them. This reaction is exactly what we needed before heading out on our two week tour.

I am always sad when I have to wave goodbye to a Clown Performance Team, and that I cannot be there with them in the field. However, I know that the children and communities in the North West will be in for an absolute treat with this team and I wish everyone involved in the experience all the joy and laughter to come!