Se­ri­ous task of get­ting the world to laugh

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - UFRIEDA HO

ONOFRIO Colucci has drawn white face paint around his lips to cre­ate the smile he wears on stage as a pro­fes­sional clown hun­dreds of times.

The smile is his sur­ren­der to the ex­quis­ite an­ar­chy of all things in­verted but pos­si­ble in the world of a clown, he said.

Colucci is one of the eight clowns who have bought snow­storms and a touch of win­ter magic to Jo­han­nes­burg with Slava Snow­show open­ing at Mon­te­casino this week and com­ing to Artscape next month. It’s not an­ar­chy as chaos, but dis­rup­tion through con­tra­dic­tion, through pos­si­bil­ity and things maybe never be­fore imag­ined pos­si­ble.

“A clown is a nat­u­ral mis­match, which makes him fit any­where. But he has in­tegrity and a pride in who he is, not want­ing to be some­one else. Ev­ery­one can re­late to him be­cause ev­ery­one has at least once been in love, has at least once cried, or felt lonely.

“And ev­ery­one has at least once found a way out – it’s this that makes a clown in­stantly recog­nis­able,” said Colucci, sip­ping cof­fee (be­cause he has enough en­ergy al­ready, he says) and chat­ting ami­ably.

Grow­ing up in Puglia, “the heel of the boot” of Italy, Colucci knew at the age of six he had been born a clown.

His Twit­ter pro­file reads: “I was born a clown and ul­ti­mately I’ll go with a smile on my face.”

He stud­ied ar­chi­tec­ture, but ran away to join the clowns in 1996.

“I saw the Snow­show that Slava Pol­unin was cre­at­ing in 1996. It was re­ally in its em­bryo phase, but I was mes­merised and knew that’s what I wanted to do pro­fes­sion­ally,” said Colucci.

The tra­di­tion and craft of clown­ing pre­sented in the likes of Slava Snow­show and Cirque du Soleil (of which Colucci is also a part) is for him about putting to­gether “all el­e­ments of per­for­mance”.

It’s the fur­thest from the kiddies’ party clown or a fast food mas­cot. This is clown­ing that draws from her­itages that date back hun­dreds of years and have el­e­ments of mime, drama and the­atri­cal spec­ta­cle.

It’s also about tim­ing, rhythm and phys­i­cal­ity in move­ments and hold­ing poses. It’s of course about laugh­ter and hu­mour, but also about sub­tle state­ments hid­den in com­edy and the power of sto­ry­telling. Above all it’s tun­ing into an au­di­ence and re­spond­ing in­ti­mately.

“Ev­ery time I draw on my smile I’m re­flect­ing what mood I’m in and I’m tak­ing off the mask of the or­di­nary world and be­com­ing who I re­ally am. And when I step on stage I’m feeling the au­di­ence and their mood and this makes ev­ery per­for­mance dif­fer­ent,” said Colucci.

He is one of only four clowns who are trained to play the lead role of the Yel­low Clown in Slava’s pro­duc­tion.

“We are a rare species,” said Colucci with a smile. He adds that clowns sew their own cos­tumes and do their own make-up. For Colucci it’s be­cause th­ese are not props or em­bel­lish­ments but an in­te­gral part of the process of bring­ing his in­ner­most to his au­di­ence, to just be­ing present.

“We are not a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the world, but a pre­sen­ta­tion of the world. I show the happy bur­den of my life as it has evolved when I am on stage.

“The se­cret of Slava Snow­show is that we don’t aim to please, we don’t give the au­di­ence pre-chewed food, so to speak, it’s for the au­di­ence to re­ceive,” he said.

And re­ceiv­ing from Jo­hanes­burg au­di­ences, who have al­ready been to the show, has been in sub­mis­sion to play, to won­der and to clown­ing around – be­cause they can.

● Slava Snow­show is at Artscape Au­gust 17 to 28.

PIC­TURES: MATTHEWS BALOYI

Onofrio Colucci plays the lead role of the Yel­low Clown in Slava Snow­show at Artscape next month.

Slava Snow­show. Putting on his make-up is an in­tri­cate process.

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