Jeremy clowns around for new theatre experience

Hey! My name is Jeremy Linnell and I’m a performer/writer/maker based in Cardiff. I’m what you’d call an emerging artist, I’ve got a few small projects under my belt, mostly writing and performance, but am currently taking my first real steps into creating live work. I’d like to tell you about a project I’m working on at the moment that currently has the working title “Functionally Dysfunctional”.

Earlier this year I started thinking about making a show that dealt with my experiences with mental health, particularly Borderline Personality Disorder. Without becoming maudlin it’s been a defining part of my life and will probably always be such. Like a lot of mental health issues BPD does not just affect the sufferer but also those that are closest to them. It seemed important to me that the show tackled that head on. It should also, and this for me is vital, stand alone as a piece of work, regardless of your experience or knowledge of mental health. It should also not simply be a recounting of my life or a misery fest, it should communicate the highs as well as the lows. Finally because it was about how I interact with the world and how the world interacts with me it seemed blindingly obvious there should be some element of audience inclusion. The title refers to this, the world is geared towards being interacted with in a certain way and if you fall outside of that it is difficult to do, but you still have to. You have to find a way to function in your dysfunction. 


I had been talking to Mark from Making Minds through email for a while, mainly based around my writing and finding platforms to show it. It was almost a coincidence when a friend mentioned the upcoming mental health arts festival which, as it turned out, was being organised by Making Minds. So I now had an endgame for the project, making a full show that can be performed as part of the festival. With that spurring me on I began to work on the show in earnest.
I started by writing up a mood board of how my condition feels and affects myself and others, along with various quotes and ideas. Some quotes in particular stood out. BPD sufferers often describe themselves as “children masquerading as adults” and feeling like “emotional burn victims” where the slightest touch causes maximum reaction. One of their greatest fears is exclusion and abandonment. This I know to be true from my own experience. This, along with the general theme of looking at mental health in society, triggered a connection in my mind to a style of performance known as “bouffon” a clowning style that, as far as I know, originated from the practitioner Jacques Lecoq and I have encountered through Eric Davis’s show “Red Bastard” (an utter ‘must see’ if you ever get the chance). “No one is more child than the bouffon”. Court jesters, and bouffons, exist to point out the flaws and ills of society. I’m certainly not an expert in this style, having never trained, but it’s certainly had an influence on what I’ve made so far.

I’m currently working with a director called Mandy Hale. She’s fantastic, has really got the spirit of the project and is already pushing me in new and interesting ways. I’m very excited and happy to be working with her. Together we are taking my notes, ideas and experiences and building a character. His name is Cleft. He needs your help, he wants to learn how to be a real adult and wants you to teach him. In return he’ll teach you how to be a child. He’s dangerous, exciting, sexy, funny, destructive and very angry. He’ll be your best friend but he’s also prone to tantrums. There’ll be games. Deep conversation. Chocolate bars.

On May 31st we’ll be introducing him to the world for the first time in a ten minute slow at the Four Bars Scratch Platform (above Dempsey’s in Cardiff city centre). We’d both love it if you could come along; after all without an audience we have no show. This’ll be a chance to see new work in its rawest form and help shape the direction it goes in. We’ll particularly be focusing on the audience participation elements that night and if you don’t want to play that’s fine with us. Cleft might have some other ideas though.

Thanks for reading.

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