CIRCUS UNLIMITED! Circus Stories:  Sound In The Clowns
Circus Stories

Sound In The Clowns (by Pepe the Clown)

Early one morning, Rainbow the Clown called me.  Could I come round to his house that evening to record a “Clown Voiceover”?  It was for some “Clown Statues” in France.  I was rushing off to Welwyn Garden City that day to run a Circus Skills Workshop so we didn’t really have much more of a chance to chat.

All that day, I began to mentally rehearse what a Clown Statue might say.  Can I speak in English?  Will it have to be in French?  That seemed to be the only complication.  Little did I know!

Later, when I arrived at Rainbow’s house (and only one minute late too!) there were three other Clowns there already.  Rainbow (the only one in full Motley- fresh from a gig), Sonny, Mojo….and now me, Pepe the Clown.  Everyone was huddled in Rainbow’s lounge with this (very serious) man.  He had big headphones and electronic boxes with flashing lights and a big microphone on a stand.  I suddenly realised this was going to be very professionally done.

Headphone Man said:  “I’ll start again for you, then”  and I realised that my arrival and loud greetings had all been recorded in the background of a test session by those already there!  We started again.

I wish I felt a bit brighter.

He gave us the story.  So….in South-West France (somewhere) there’s going to be some life-size Clown models/statues/figurines (in beds – sick) for French children to interact with.  At some kind of exhibit.  There will be four Clown Statues and so four different Clown voices were needed, one female.  The children have to try giving the Clowns various pills to make them better.  When the right pill is given, the Clown is happy.  But when the wrong pill is offered, the Clown is unhappy (and still ill).  Confused?  Yes, I was too.  And children giving drugs to Clowns?  The mind boggles!

There was a further complication:  no language would be involved.  Headphone Man needed sounds (not words) to convey which pills were the right ones….and which were wrong.  We all looked at each other.  Blank faces looked back.

The complications grew:  Rainbow’s family were all banished to the kitchen.  But Headphone Man’s microphone was very sensitive….and he could still hear them.  Three times, we had to try and explain to them that even whispers would ruin the recording.  The poor things.  It’s hard to keep completely quiet….as we all know! 

We started again.  In turn.  Headphone Man wasn’t very happy about the way it was going.  We weren’t doing very well.  We were struggling.  Think about it.  It’s difficult.  Clowning normally (hopefully) hits the audience on most of their senses at once:  Visual,  Aural and Kinaesthetic (Feeling).  Sometimes even smell too!  We could only use sounds.  And, as Clowns, we are all used to interacting with people….and not a microphone.

Then Headphone Man had an idea.  Why didn’t we try physically playing the role of a (sick) Clown in bed?  Amid much joking, one by one we lay on Rainbow’s sofa and made the appropriate sounds.  Success by one of us (at producing a usable sound) was enthusiastically applauded by the others.  Sadly, the microphone picked all this up too!

I hab a cold in by dose.

We started again.  And before long, we were “in the swing”.  Rainbow, particularly, produced some great noises.  Sonny did his share of good ones too.  Mojo was especially good on the happy/I’m getting better sounds.  Very loud, she was….and several times Headphone Man had to adjust his recording levels downwards.  I was…adequate, let’s say!

By this point, of course, we all were finding the whole thing hilarious….and our spontaneous laughter often ruined the recordings.  We started again.

After 40 minutes, Headphone Man was satisfied!  “I think I’ve probably got enough here”, he said.  But it was an intensive 40 minutes.  Believe me.  And by then, we were running out of appropriate noises anyway!

He packed away all his recording stuff and took down the microphone.  None of us can remember him taking off the headphones.  But he must have….we think!

I’m still not completely sure how the recordings will be used.  Museum?  Exhibition?  Promotion?  Hospital?  But if you’re ever in South-West France and see some Clown Statues in bed with children giving them different pills….then you will also be hearing the noises produced by us four Clowns on that very strange evening!

Perhaps someone will see (and hear) these Clowns and Email us a picture?  Please?

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CIRCUS UNLIMITED! Circus Stories:  Sound In The Clowns
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