THE FOOL IN PRIMITIVE & MODERN SOCIETIES
Drawing on Tradition. by Ron Shuttleworth
Most of the sessions that we have had at events for Fools and Beasts have been based on the practical experience of ourselves or other Morris Fools. We talk about routines and occasions which have been surprisingly successful, for reasons which we do not usually try to analyse.
In this paper I am going to try out some ideas which are based on a more cerebral approach. I am not trying be to be clever-clever, but I have read a article which really made me think, and I hope that you too will find it interesting, and perhaps use it to refine your art.
Consider this scenario: It is an autumn day. We go into a pub which is bright and clean and well-furnished and heated to an optimum comfortable temperature. Well and good. The next pub is less salubrious, but has a large, bright fire burning in a wide hearth. We are not cold, but we gather round that fire, and feel the more cheerful for its presence. Why ? Because for millennia the fire has been the centre of home life, and the feelings it generates in our subconscious cannot be extinguished by a few decades of central heating. Magicoal are on to a winner.
Desmond Morris, in The Naked Ape and other books, has shown that under the veneer of 'civilisation' we still react to stimuli which we do not recognise or even know about.
By researching people in an earlier stage of development, by consulting records from less complicated times, and to some degree by observing children, it is possible to discern truths which have universal application. By using these to modify your performance you should be able to strike a response from the deep core of subconscious reaction common to all your audience.
I read an article called The Clown's Function by Lucille Hoerr Charles, (Journal of American Folklore, 58. (Jan-Mar 1945) pp.25-34) Although this reports exclusively on primitive societies, I found it very insightful and feel that it has something fundamental to say about Fooling in general.
Now, I am not advocating that Morris Fools should indulge in full-frontal flashing or simulated sex-acts, as some seemed to think when I raised this subject some time ago, but if we take Charles' article as a starting point and follow it through, I hope that it will provide food for thought and discussion. Let me quote the conclusion from the article.
"Apparently a clown is concerned always with that which is not quite proper; with something embarrassing, astonishing, shocking, but not too much so. This fact appears to be a constant in all times and in all places.
A clown holds the licentious thing in his hands, psychologically speaking; he is objective at the same time that he has a most intimate and thoroughgoing relationship with the tabooed thing. He goes through the ritual of impersonation as if he were the outrageous thing himself or its personification; yet at the sane time he knows, his audience knows, and both he and his audience know that the other knows, that he is not that thing. Very frequently he is one of the most honourable persons in the community. He is playing with fire; but he is not the fire. The moment he identifies himself with the fire he is no longer funny; that fine, delightful sense of balance and mastery is lost, and the clown becomes pathetic, ineffective, disgusting."
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