13th – 17th January 2020 / 10.30am – 5.30pm / Cost £360 (£300 + 20% VAT)
Toynbee Studios, 28 Commercial St, London E1 6AB
Led by Toby Park, jt artistic director & musical director Spymonkey
To apply please fill out this online booking form.
Music has always played a huge part of the Spymonkey creative process – we think early on in our writing about what the show might offer in the way of deliciously inappropriate original songs, musical theatre genres that we want to explore, unlikely cover versions of existing songs, speciality variety acts, original music in a range of genres and styles to inspire us to new choreographic heights, sound effects that establish their own theatrical conventions (and then break them hilariously).
Musical performance comes with its own set of recognisable conventions: conventions of genre, of status relationships, of audience expectation, of ‘how things ought to be’. And as comedic performers we are drawn to these structures like kids to a climbing frame – they supply us with the framework on which we can swing, dance, vault, somersault, generally have a ball. We can also fall off them and hurt ourselves: there’s risk and danger there too, which keeps everything exciting.
In this 5 day workshop we will explore how Spymonkey use music to lead us into unique and totally original comedic territory. We will explore Pleasure: the clown’s pleasure of being ridiculous on stage, the generous pleasure of playing with our friends, the pleasure of performing music together, the pleasure of pursuing grand ambitions, of unlikely choices, of aiming high, of making terrible mistakes and failing woefully! The pleasure of making an audience laugh their socks off.
How do you start to build a musical speciality act? How do you create a brilliant dance routine? How do you write a song that will make people piss their pants? How can music unite a disparate group of performers into one vibrantly harmonic unit? (And then have it all fall apart again catastrophically?) Using the principles of clown that will be familiar to students of Spymonkey’s work – vulnerability, generosity, pleasure, optimism, complicity – we will explore all these things and more.
Suitable for professionals and students of performance 18+
YOU DON’T NEED TO BE A MUSICIAN TO DO THIS WORKSHOP! You need only a sense of curiosity about how far you can stretch the limits of your performing, and the willingness to put yourself into difficult situations in order to make other people laugh at you too.
If you have an instrument we’ll ask you to bring it with you. But you won’t need to know how to play it with any degree of proficiency, or to sing, or to have done a Spymonkey workshop before, to stretch your musical and comedic sensibilities in order to create new work unique to you.
The Fabulous Backstrom Brothers, Helsinki 2016 – clown opera directed by Toby Park and Aitor Basauri
We made this a while ago now for our show ‘Bless’, but still one of our favourite bit of music and comedy!
Toby Park is joint founder, managing artistic director, performer and musical director of the Brighton-based international theatre company Spymonkey. With Spymonkey he created and performed around the world the groundbreaking clown theatre shows STIFF, COOPED, ZUMANITY (with Cirque du Soleil Las Vegas), BLESS, MOBY DICK, OEDIPUSSY, LOVE IN and THE COMPLETE DEATHS.
Physical comedy director for RSC’s MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR, National Theatre’s TARTUFFE, Chichester Festival Theatre’s MACK & MABEL starring Michael Ball; director and co-creator of the Finnish clown opera Fabulous Backstrom Brothers at Kapsakki Theatre Helsinki, and BIG BANG SIEGFRIED for Hagen Symphony Orchestra/Theatre Hagen, Germany. Other directing credits include Emma Edwards and Abigail Dooley’s award-winning ENTER THE DRAGONS, Hijinx’s THE FLOP (Total Theatre Award Nominee), Hijinx’s opening and closing ceremonies for Unity Festival at Wales Millennium Centre, and Spike Theatre’s THE GAMES and SHIP OF FOOLS.
He has taught clown, music and comedy workshops around the world, including the National Theatre Connections programme for directors and youth theatre leaders.
JESS GILL head of drama, St Mary’s School Hertfordshire
(centre front, pic from Berlin workshop Aug 2018)
“The music and comedy workshop with Spymonkey is absolutely glorious! I can’t recommend it enough. I have been teaching Drama for 12 years and this is the best workshop I have done on both a personal and professional level. You don’t need to have to able to play an instrument, sing or even be funny – just bring a sense of fun and willingness to give it a go, everyone can access it on their own level, we had a mixture of street performers, actors and teachers in our group and everyone loved it. Toby is a master of his craft and teaches with the same sparkle, humour and generosity that you can see on stage. We spent most of the week laughing and made very good friends with the other people on the course. There is no pressure to perform but lots of games, improvisation and opportunities to share, everyone was nudged outside of their comfort zone and achieved far more than they thought they could. Ideal if you have any students who want to try their hand at comedy or devising music, this course will give you the insider tips and tricks to creating something joyful together.
It changed my teaching and it changed my life. It may not change yours – but at least you’ll have a walloping good time!”
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.”
FIONA COFFEY writer/performer, Honey’s Happening
“Do it!! Leave your inhibitions at home. It’s a super intensive boot camp. Be open. Have fun. Don’t analyse it. Just throw yourself into it. It will change you. For the better.
The detailed personal feedback was superb and extremely helpful. I could understand more about my areas of strength and where and how I could improve. I learned just as much by watching this process with others, as I did when trying things for myself. I particularly enjoyed the feeling of being pushed and challenged to try anything and everything. I felt that a creative crucible had been formed very quickly such that any number of things became possible. I never imagined for example that I would be able to write a comedy song.
Exceptionally good value. The best short course I have been on in a very long time.”
In March 2020 we are offering the second of our intensive three-week Clown Creation School, aimed at emerging and professional performers who would like to build on their clown and physical comedy work, and take it to the next level of production and performance. It will be led by Spymonkey artistic directors Aitor Basauri and Toby Park, long-standing associate Stephan Kreiss, and producer Emily Coleman.
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!
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.
Dates: 2nd – 20th March / Mondays – Fridays 10.30am – 5.30pm
Location: Toynbee Studios, 28 Commercial Rd, London
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 Theatre in Context
Physical Comedy – exploration of comedic physicality, drawing on neutral mask and slapstick, led by Stephan Kreiss.
Music & Performance – developing comedic material through musical games and exercises, song-writing, musical theatre, instrumental ensembles and choreography, led by Toby Park.
The Business – seminars on running a business for emerging artists: fundraising, budgeting and tour booking with time to ask questions specific to your project, 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 explore how to work on new material, led by the three workshop leaders.
The final Friday will climax in a presentation of some of this work-in-progress for an invited audience.
Cost and booking policy
Three week course
£900 (inc. VAT) – early bird before 9th December 2019
£1000 (inc. VAT) – full price
A 20% non-refundable deposit is payable on registration
40% is payable 1st January 2020
40% is payable 1st February 2020
For other information about the workshop please contact: email@example.com
Brassmonkey Bursary Scheme
Spymonkey support the development of the next generation of comedy performers. In recognition of the lack of diversity in comedy performers on our stages, we will be running a bursary scheme for the Three Week Clown Creation School to support two individuals to participate in our workshops. The two bursary places will be offered to people from a diverse background and others who are otherwise underrepresented on our stages. For more information about how to apply for, or to donate to the scheme see the Brassmonkey Bursary page here.