With mind-boggling circus acts, juggling and pantomime and physical comedy, the International Clown Festival starting 30 September is all set to showcase the genres that make up the art of clowning. The ninth edition of the event, organised annually by Mumbai-based Lighthouse Entertainment’s Mad Hatters, a family entertainment company, will feature nine participants from Canada, the US, Singapore, Germany and Italy, among other countries.
This year, Japan makes its debut at the festival with two acts by the duo RONE & Gigi, and Toppo. The former promises an engaging evening with the two big-ear performers bringing a unique style of pantomime, physical comedy and music to the stage. The other highlights include performances by Canada’s Sleepy the Clown, who loves to work with balloons and magic, Jenny, a German unicyclist and hat juggler, and Gaia Ma from Italy, who brings proficiency as a tap dancer to her juggling act.
The festival, to be held across multiple cities from 30 September-22 October, was conceived by Martin D’Souza, who is better known by his clown avatar, Flubber. One of the few professional clowns in India, this MBA-turned-clown brings together juggling, miming, balloon sculpting and magic in his acts. He also runs the event management company Lighthouse Entertainment, which organises the festival.
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The festival aims to create awareness of the subgenres within clowning. Take, for instance, the whiteface—a stylish clown—who could take on a classic or a grotesque avatar. Then there is the mischievous Auguste, a colourful clown, who makes people laugh with his clumsy antics. The third kind is a hobo or tramp, who wears a perpetually depressed expression. D’Souza’s Flubber is based on the vibrant Auguste style.
The ninth edition of the festival is the first full-fledged physical event since the covid-19 pandemic. Last year, only a few physical shows were held in a few cities. But D’Souza didn’t go silent during the lockdowns in 2020. “On the first day of the lockdown, I was hit with the thought, what are the kids going to do while being homebound? I wanted to assure them that it was okay to get bored. That’s how new forms of creative expression emerge,” he says.
In the first month, D’Souza started a Facebook live series, “Flubber at 5”, where he would talk to children and their parents about everything under the sun. The series went on for 45 days, with children from Dubai, South Africa, India and the UK logging in. D’Souza began reconnecting with clown friends from all over the world and invited them for live chats online. “On World Juggling Day (held annually on a Saturday closest to 17 June), we had a two-and-a-half-hour-long session with a lot of international participants. Parents reached out to me, saying that for a change they didn’t mind children watching the screen,” he says.
This year, he has tried to bring clowns who might not speak English but are united by the universal language of comedy. “All of the participants are extremely accomplished. The Japanese clowns are very senior teachers, who have great characterisation. The European clowns are known for their circus acts. They are not so much into make-up and wardrobe but focus more on their skills,” says D’Souza. “The shows are not just for kids but for the entire family.”
The festival will be held at the Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Concert Hall in Chennai from 30 September-2 October, before moving to Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. For details, visit www.clownfestindia.com