• Mark Curtis

Clown Technique, Portugal

An example of a transferable innovative practice from performing arts to training workshop leaders.

Submission by Rodrigo Malvar

Organisation: ESMAE


Type: Prevention

Focus: Collaboration

Duration: Longer

We are using clown as a vehicle for training workshop leaders who will work in specific contexts with young people.

This technique gives the possibility for a leader/facilitator to:

  • have a better listening capacity

  • manage the group dynamic from the inside

  • promote and invite the participants to be in a horizontal status situation

  • understand the power of having fun

  • laugh at your reactions and errors

  • be comfortable with failing

  • share what happens with the group in an open attitude

  • promote the reading of body language

  • develop a way of getting to know participants and reading them

This is project which can be developed over a 3 days workshop, but can be longer depending on the level that is required.

This project was tested on the Postgraduation in Artistic Practice and the Community in ESMAE over a number of years, with a duration of 15 hours later extended to 30.

The central activity is first to pass through clown exercises and then make the connections between the content of the work and its possible applications and results.

Phase 1:

We develop the connection, the listening and sensitive to the other. With this we also pass through a mirror process of self awareness - how am I and how do I react - which is important to develop the next step.

Phase 2:

We promote situations in which we can play with this state. The games are very simple and clear to establish the communication and the status of the participants.

Phase 3:

We work the first principles further towards improvisation. Concerning status and how can we pass from a high status to a low status very rapidly. In this physical situation we are confronted with the complexity of the power relationship and we learn to play with this.

Phase 4:

Because we have previously worked with the "internal" sensibility we can now move on to compose with some external elements (such as objects, costumes and props) in order to maintain the "internal" feelings within the structure of the improvisation.

Phase 5:

In order the use this technique and to be able to apply it into different contexts it is necessary to deconstruct and analyse the process, in order to the participants to have an understanding of the uses and relevance of the principles and practices of the work

P.S - it is important to be careful who you choose to give the workshop.

Some practitioners of clown are more experienced in this area of working in contexts, and this is a specialist area.

We have contacts with the clowns and international organisations and we can recommend someone on a local level if you would like some help.


In specific context with young people we have witnessed the following results:

  • the power of laughter and pleasure in the learning environment

  • the ability to look at each other without judgement

  • the promotion of a safe space of trying and failing

  • the ability to be comfortable with low and high status positions

  • action and reaction - not thinking too much

  • the promotion of the "just do it" principle

  • able to practice the KISS principle (keep it simple and stupid)

  • accepting rules and playing within them

  • self knowledge

  • self esteem

In 2010, in a workshop at ESMAE (see photo below) one of the participants went on to study clown further and after a few years arrived to be responsible for the Educational services in Teatro das Beiras, Covilhã, Portugal.

She stays in touch with us and recently sent the following comment which acts as a testimonial for the success of application of the clown universe in the educational context.

Clown Bibliography

  • Bergson, Henri. O Riso, São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 2004.

  • Callery, Dymphna. Through the Body: A Practical Guide to Physical

  • Theatre, Nick Hern Books Limited, 2001.

  • Zumthor, Paul. Performance, Recepção, Leitura, Brasil: Cosacnaify, 2007.

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