Clowns Without Borders at Fun Palace

12115545_880210562067241_7068390534668462878_nAs Magenta’s office manager Marion Duggan sets off for India on a mission to bring laughter into the lives of children who live in areas of crisis including refugee camps, conflict zones and other situations of adversity – a trip part-funded by Magenta – she talks about a recent opportunity to clown around in the UK.

Joan Littlewood, the visionary theatre director, wanted to create Fun Palaces, cultural spaces designed to link arts, sciences, entertainment and education. Used as a way to overcome the barriers that artistic institutions often have, they are welcoming to all, especially children and young people. On 4th October Camden People’s Theatre joined many other venues across the UK by transforming into a Fun Palace. Clowns Without Borders UK applied to be part of the event, a great way to raise awareness of the charity in London.

CWB set up as the welcoming committee to the building, engaging with passers by and drawing them into the building. We invited people to take the ‘alternative citizenship test’, where the clowns had clipboards, wigs and slightly disconcerting moustaches (grown instantly on arrival at the venue) and asked questions like: ‘how many notes in a ten-pound note’ and ‘what do you eat baked beans on, toast or oatcakes’?

The ‘passport official’ clown, filled in the audience member’s passport, 12088352_880210512067246_1826253775896303008_nsurreptitiously writing down a personalised compliment on the back and drawing their portrait, asking the audience member to pose with their ‘best ever look’. Nobody failed the test! It was great to watch as people went into the building and seeing their reactions to the positive comment on the back of their passport, ‘you have lovely hair’, ‘wow, what a great jumper’, ‘your teeth are fab’! A third clown threw paper confetti and welcomed and congratulated people on passing the test ‘yippee, you are great’!

At times we spilled out onto the street, responding to the passengers on buses who pointed and laughed.

The theatre was filled with workshops, discussions, experiments and readings and the Clowns helped draw people across what can sometimes be a scary line, engaging new audiences. Camden Peoples Theatre said “You drew in people that wouldn’t usually have attended, which is a fantastic result for us’.

“Good theatre draws the energies out of the place where it is and gives it back as joie de vivre.” Joan Littlewood.

Marion will be in India from 1-15 November 2015. Clowns Without Borders UK is Magenta’s corporate charity for 2015-16.


Cathy Hayward