Edinburgh’s first ever clown festival ‘not just about comedy’

The Edinburgh Contemporary Clown Festival will be held in May.
The Edinburgh Contemporary Clown Festival will be held in May.
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MOST people associate clowns with the circus or children’s birthday parties, but Edinburgh’s first ever clown festival aims to be “different from any kind of clown performance as we know it”.

The Edinburgh Contemporary Clown Festival will take place at the Assembly Roxy theatre from May 3 to May 5.

But while performers will literally be clowning around on stage, clown theatre is not just about comedy.

Organisers say the festival is designed to “share the humanity, passion, honesty and connection within the unique art of the contemporary clown”.

The event is the brainchild of Venezuelan artistic director Sáras Feijóo, who regularly runs “clown cabaret” nights in Edinburgh and Glasgow. She said: “Everyone knows what a clown is, but contemporary clown performance is based on our honesty and vulnerability as human beings. There’s some comedy involved, but it’s not our overall aim. It’s a platform for contemporary clown artists to be creative and present new ideas in front of an audience.”

The festival will feature a mix of shows, masterclasses and panel discussions, with prospective clowns encouraged to audition their ‘pieces’ for inclusion.

A range of international artists will perform at the festival including Leith-born Johnny Melville, who hasn’t performed as a clown in his home city since 1975.

“He’s been living in Spain and in the time he’s been away, clown theatre has changed a lot,” said Sáras. “I’ve been in Scotland for ten years now and I notice there’s much more awareness of clown performance than when I arrived.

“Our audience has grown and our clown community has grown. More and more people are actually using contemporary clown techniques in their daily life and learning about how we use the costumes, the face paint and so on to communicate with others in that space.”

Clowns are historically recognised as slapstick jesters who perform comedy routines, but they also inspire fear and terror for some. In 2016, there were hundreds of reports of people disguised as “killer clowns” .

Sáras said: “I totally understand that some people find clowns are scary. I also find some clowns scary – especially the crazy ones you see. But I’d say that what we do is completely different because we’re so open and vulnerable.”

The theatre has agreed to provide space for free.