Rob’s fascination with how drag and clowning intersect was first ignited when he performed in the show The Fems at The Camden People’s Theatre in September 2017. This was a bouffon show that took aim at the patriarchy and society’s attitudes towards femininity. It also required him to wear drag makeup and to look glamorous but to act the clown and behave monstrously. It was the first time he had ever considered the explicit link between the two artforms and how they might resist each other but also work as one. It was also whilst performing in The Fems at London Clown Fest in May 2018 that he encountered the venue The Mirth, Marvel and Maud in Walthamstow which would eventually be where Oop-La! would perform their show Encore, Encore!
Whilst working with Oop-La! Rob has offered up his skills as a drag performer and his knowledge of the cabaret world to the group. This has included providing makeup tutorials, delivering a talk on the history of drag performance and sharing insights into his own experiences lip-synching. Rob’s character in the show represents the nature of drag queens who are in control, determined to succeed, and who are just a little bit un-hinged and can flip from sweet one second to dangerous the next.
Brief Encounter is one of his favourite films and so he was so pleased when the company were able to find a way to include it into the show and that it forms such a key part of the piece.
Hippolyte started to train in Clowning this year, following workshops with Philippe Gaulier and Jon Davison and working on John Wright’s exercises through the reading of the chapters dedicated to clowning in his book ‘Why is that so funny?-a practical exploration of physical comedy’. Nevertheless, he realises that he has done clowning since much longer! When he trained in Paris at Cours René Simon and Cours Jean-Laurent Cochet, his teachers asked him to play characters such as old men from Molière and cuckold from French Vaudeville and they pointed his unusual way to deal with them. He also had encountered clowning in his readings, particularly through the works of Jean Cocteau, Samuel Beckett and Jacques Copeau to whom he devoted the final year dissertation of his BA :’From Plato to Jacques Copeau: In search of truth through the poetical word’.
With this background, Hippolyte brings to the company a dramaturgical insight on clowning, particularly on its use by modernist artists and French post-68 practitioners as well as his performing skills. He also focuses on the question of the application of ‘clown logic’ on broader performing areas and sees the figure of the Boss clown (or Whiteface) as a potential alternative to the traditional directorial figure. In the coming year, he is going to follow the MA Voice studies at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and his hoping to develop his reflexion on Lip-syncing related to the notion of embodiment.
Ben is an Actor/Musician who studied a BA in Drama & Theatre Studies at Aberystwyth University before moving to London to start an MA in Advanced Theatre Practice at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.
Ben discovered clowning when he attended a 12 week evening class with clown teacher/performer/researcher Jon Davison. This was a bit of an epiphany for Ben, as clowning was something that he had always done, but he had never known clowning could be trained in and explored so deeply.
As well as clowning, Ben has a passion for music and for performing classical texts. He recently took part in a Shakespeare festival in Tring, where he was able to explore areas where clowning and traditional acting might overlap.
Ben brings to Oop-La! a background in traditional acting, which allows Oop-La! to root themselves in theatrical tradition while also subverting it.