The word Bouffon comes from a latin verb: buffare, to puff, to fill the cheeks with air, to deform oneself, to swell in order to provoke laughter. It seems to be a very old human practice. In fact, bouffons are direct descendants of the satyrs from Ancient Greek Satyric Drama. The actual word “Bouffons” comes from French and it entered English theatrical language through the work of Jacques Lecoq. The essence of the Bouffon is in the dynamic of MOCKING. The MOCKER is a specific role, existing in all human societies. Bouffons represent elements of their society in an amplified, distorted or exaggerated way, thereby provoking laughter and outrage. Their Mockery doesn’t have an agenda in itself, because the Bouffons don’t have opinions, and they don’t protect any side from their mocking. They just mock everything and everybody. Their purpose is to have fun playing at being humans and therefore they use everything they find, with ferocious ecstasy and jubilation. This is their power: they see and play with everything, they feed on human dynamics in order to play with it. Bouffons never touch on individual or private themes, instead they take on big collective movements – involving the social complexity and the very essence of society and culture. Politics, religion, economy, power, money and finances, morality, war and the military, science, gender and race, ecology, family, education and school, cultural institutions…
For Bouffon work to be possible, we need to be very well and precisely informed about the situation or themes that we are mocking, in order to see and then reveal what is hidden, what lies underneath – on the other side, in the shadow or the unspeakable. Nothing can be invented – all the movements and dynamics are documented and are based in authentic behaviors. The actors need to collect facts, not opinions. Bouffons have no opinions or values. Actors, directors, writers and members of the audience do. That’s why, as a theatre genre, Bouffon is often very provocative, because its very nature is to bring hidden things to the surface and to unmask the collective games lying behind events. This often includes the fact that the role of oppressor and victim are always intertwined. Everybody in the audience gets scrambled by a bouffon piece, which can be often a bit difficult and or even unbearable. It’s not the Bouffons who are unbearable but the truth that they reveal about humanity, what is hidden, what lies underneath, on the other side, the grotesque of human society (grotesque comes from greek cryptos = hidden).
The Bouffon State is an extreme state of play, a mime gone wild, a shapeshifting actor who can imitate everything and amplify it until its grotesqueness. A band of Bouffons is a shapeshifting chorus of wild creatures, who mirror society by playing the games that we all play. The imitation becomes mocking and the mocking will trigger the community to review its own ethics and possibly figure out better solutions to play. Far from being a mysterious and ineffable state, the Bouffon play is based on rigorous movement technique and specific improvisation skills.
As a theatrical territory or genre, Bouffon has a unique poetic potential because it allows the authors, the directors and the players to explore and play with hotspots of the community and provoke laughter, outrage, political and social awareness and a shared reflection on the ethical dilemmas that any human community has to face.
THE STEPS OF THE BOUFFON JOURNEY
History of Satyric Drama and Grotesque: theatre as a ritual of collective ecstasy.
Bouffon work within the context of Jacques Lecoq’s Pedagogy
How Bouffon relates to Tragedy, Melodrama and Clown.
Expression, excitation, excitement, jubilation: the somatic of Joy.
Playing with the wound: the excitation of The Hurt.
Altered states and extreme states as non ordinary states of perception.
States of consciousness and states of awareness. Play as a non-ordinary state.
The Bouffons as the state-shifter: flocking as collective trance.
Collective games and the Satyric States.
Mocking oneself, mocking others, mocking the world.
Playing with human wilderness: amplification as empowerment.
The non dualistic mind dance: the Psyche as a band of roles.
Amplification, deformity and grotesque imitation.
Death as a Trickster.
Mocking as knowledge: the political power of Bouffon Theater.
– Play, action/reaction and fun
– Flocking and collective movements: the shapeshifting chorus
– Engaged Madness
– From children playing to Bouffon games
– The Bouffon “state” and the mocking eyes
– The grotesque body: amplification, deformation, swelling and puffing
– The white bodies
– Altered states of play: bands of Bouffons, rhythm, rituals and mocking dynamics.
– The shapeshifting body.
– How the Bouffons see the world: themes of play
– Bouffons impro: non-linear and non local writing.
– The Bouffons mocking the great themes of humanity.
– Writing in the Grotesque Mode.
– Staging and Devising Bouffons acts. Levels of expression and levels of playing.