‘Ow that hurts!’ Clown and Tumbling Training with Johnny Hutch

Wednesday 30 November
Room 202, St Alphege, King Alfred Campus, University of Winchester, Sparkford Road, Winchester, Hampshire SO22 4NR

​Presentation by Dr. Richard Cuming (Performing Arts)

This presentation traces and analyses the methods of veteran acrobat Johnny Hutch in training companies such as The People Show, The Kosh and Circus Oz in the 1980s. The article uses my own experience of his methods when, as a clown with Zippo and Company, we undertook a substantial period of training with the 71 year old in 1984, in which he passed on rigorous comedy tumbling and clown routines. Until then our training had been largely ‘self-fashioned’, similar to clown Pitu described in Kenneth Little’s article Pitu’s Doubt (2003). During the breaks Johnny would tell stories about his lengthy career in circus and variety, which began in 1927 aged fourteen, when he was apprenticed to a troupe of Moroccan acrobats. In effect Johnny was passing on an oral history as well as an ethics of popular performance. I consider his training of specific routines runs counter to the dominant style of clown training, that of ‘finding one’s own clown’ as exemplified by Jacques Lecoq (2002: 143-150) and Philippe Gaulier, with whom I trained in 1992. To convey both my subjective experience and an analysis of that experience my article includes material from interviews with Martin Burton, also a member of Zippo and Company, as well as Mark Long and Emil Wolk of the People Show. I employ both an ‘academic’ mode of writing and an anecdotal/performative mode, drawing on Norman Denzin’s notion of ‘… the storytelling self…’ from Interpretive Ethnography (1997: 85).

Richard Cuming biography

Richard is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Performing Arts at the University of Winchester. His teaching and research is in physical and visual performance and the synthesis of different forms. He was a founder of clown troupe Zippo & Co, and from 1986 ran his company fishproductions which was dedicated to performance in non-theatre spaces. He is an artistic associate of Belgian puppet company Sac a Dos, a director of Platform 4 Theatre, and associate editor of Total Theatre magazine. He frequently performs with Fuse Performance and was their dramaturg on their real/fake performance The Village Fete.​

To book, please email: Neil.Ewen@winchester.ac.uk

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