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Joan Littlewood and Ariane Mnouchkine against the canon: developing the actors’ social representations through clowning
Theatre, Dance and Performance Training  (IF),  Pub Date : 2022-01-05, DOI: 10.1080/19443927.2021.1968026
Evi Stamatiou

The investigation of how Joan Littlewood and Ariane Mnouchkine used clowning to develop actors with social purposes responds to the current interest in the neglected counterhegemonic training processes of women. It also contributes to current efforts to decolonise and decentre actor training. Using Theatre Workshop’s Oh What a Lovely War (1963) and Théâtre du Soleil’s Les Clowns (1969) as exemplars, this article traces how Littlewood and Mnouchkine trained actors on clowning to theatricalise social struggles and develop their social representations. Through ensemble improvisations that exploited clown devices such as the master-servant, clown logic, object misuse, misfitness, and the flop the actors tackled their biases in two stages: the serious/comedic dissonance alienated the actor to critically explore social gests, and the process of finding the appropriate social representations during group improvisations addressed their biases. Contemporary actor training that wishes to invite students to explore how their body, voice and imagination in performance can resist dominant ideologies and historical stereotypes might proliferate from the use of clowning to create social representations. The tracing of Mnouchkine’s and Littlewood’s clown training processes through the deconstruction of their key works, can inspire and offer insights to pedagogues who wish to decolonise and decentre their pedagogies.