Artist Development Courses

3-week Clown Creation School

In October 2018 we are offering a new form of workshop: a three-week autumn school aimed at performers who would like to follow clown and physical comedy work through to full production and performance level, led by Spymonkey founders and artistic directors, Aitor Basauri, Petra Massey and Toby Park, and producer Emily Coleman.


Spymonkey devising for clown workshop London 2013 pictured: Jody Kamali Alex Rex Matt Sutton, Hew Parham, David Tutton

We aim to build a strong ensemble dynamic, to encourage participants to go further and deeper into the work to explore new areas of comedic investigation, and to inspire and initiate new creative material and performing relationships that we hope will go on to flourish into the full glory of performance! There will also be an opportunity to examine the basics of how to build a sustainable performing arts business.


We believe that we have learnt the most about performing from the process of creating and building work towards performance. So we will use this as an impetus to creativity by working towards a final presentation of new work for an invited audience.


The course is aimed at emerging and professional performers of intermediate and advanced levels of experience, 18+. Previous participation in a Spymonkey course will be an advantage but is not a requirement of the course.


Priority will be given to participants taking the full 3 weeks course. Those wishing to attend for single weeks of the course will go on a waiting list, and availability will be at the discretion of the workshop leaders.


Toynbee Studios London
28 Commercial St, E1 6AB (2 mins from Aldgate East)


Mon - Fri 10.30am - 5.30pm

1st - 19th October 2018

Presentation of Spymonkey clown devising workshop at New York Clown Theatre Festival at The Brick Theater, Brooklyn 2012

Week 1 / Clown Foundation


The first week will be an exploration of the fundamental principles of Spymonkey's approach to creating comedy theatre. Led by Aitor Basauri, we will look at establishing a shared vocabulary of exercises and games: le Jeu, clown, pleasure, complicity, vulnerability, generosity, sensitivity. The emphasis of this week will be on recognising each performer's unique quality of ridiculousness, and the pleasure of sharing that sense of ridiculousness with an audience.



Week 2 / Developing Clown in Context


Physical Comedy & Slapstick - exploration of comedic physicality and devising tools, led by Petra Massey.


Music & Performance - developing comedic material through musical games and exercises, song-writing, musical theatre, instrumental ensembles and choreography, led by Toby Park.


The Business - optional sessions on running a business for emerging artists: finance, funding, branding and marketing, led by our producer Emily Coleman.



Week 3 / Creating, Writing & Directing


Practical tools for making physical comedy work in a range of performance contexts: theatre, cabaret, variety, circus, dance.


In the mornings we will continue to explore creating comedy theatre, including elements of melodrama (the pleasure of great acting) and bouffon (the pleasure of parody and the grotesque), as well as the wider themes introduced in week 2.


Our aim through the whole course will be to gather moments, double acts that we want to explore, build scenes, and look to develop these in the context of creating new work. In the afternoons we will have the opportunity to work on this new material, led by all three of the workshop leaders. This will climax in a presentation of this new work for an invited audience.

course structure

Cost and booking policy


Three week course

£850 (inc. VAT)

A 20% non-refundable deposit is payable on registration

40% is payable 1st August

40% is payable 1st September


Single week participants

Priority will be given to participants wanting to study for the full 3 week course.

Participants wishing to take a single week will pay a returnable 20% deposit to join the waiting list, to be confirmed in September.

Single week cost: £340 (inc. VAT) per week



To apply

Please fill out the online form here:



For more information about the workshop please contact


FABULOUS BACKSTROM BROTHERS - a clown opera created out of work originally conceived in a Spymonkey workshop at Jyvaskyla Festival Finland


LUCY HOPKINS creator of LE FOULARD, winner Adelaide Fringe Best Theatre and Best Performer Awards, Prague Fringe Creative Award, says:


“I’ve done three Spymonkey workshops - the first when I had just started developing a solo show. I asked Aitor about the Spymonkey approach to making shows and he said: pick three things you really want to do on stage, do them, and then the rest of the show is what you do so you can get away with doing those things.


I thought that sounded like an immensely fun and liberated approach to theatre making, so I had a go. I used the second workshop to play hard and find amazing fun with experts who I knew wouldn’t tolerate my boring habits and I found a spirit of play that informs pretty much everything I make. The third was with Hijinx Theatre in Cardiff. I watched-and-learned the process of getting performers to reveal their humanity however that might be and it was completely beautiful. I’m always banging on about Spymonkey. Whatever, I think they’re totally inspiring.”



GEMMA ROGERS singer/songwriter, performer, playwright says:


“Imagine being in a class with a group of people wearing luminous tutus, beaver tails and loo paper scarves where you are praised for being an idiot. In fact you revel in those words. Because on some level, It means you have succeeded (temporarily) in the complex art of clowning.


“As a writer, words are my ammunition. Without them and armed only with your face and physicality, it can feel strange - scary even -  but under Toby Park’s magical guidance I began to push through the boundaries. With the use of funny improv exercises, discussions and musical instruments ( not to mention Toby tuning several bottles of water to fit the notes for a song from Carmen ) - a group of us  performed songs and  one man acts to a hell of a lot of laughter. I left the Toynbee studios feeling I’d shed 15 years of my life.


“If you ever get a chance to embark on a Spymonkey clowning workshop- be brave and jump at it - no red noses or big flappy feet required.” (still from My Idea of Fun)

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