WHY IS THAT SO FUNNY? A Practical Exploration of Physical Comedy : John Wright
Pub: Nick Hern Books, 2006
ISBN: 1 – 85459 – 782 – 5 / 9 – 781854 597823
RRP: 12.99 (UK)
Review: Rod Dungate, January 2007
The work of a leader in the field – clear, comprehensive, absorbing
You just know when you read this book that you are reading the ideas of a real master of his art. Not because it’s precious or self-congratulatory but because it’s written with such confidence. And because, as you read the explanations of the many games he uses, you can see immediately (and the realisations as you read can be exciting) that they’ll work.
The book is summarised as ‘A practical exploration of physical comedy.’ It does this and it does a great deal more besides. John Wright is co-founder of Trestle Theatre company and Told by an Idiot; he’s also a teacher. All of this comes shining through in his work. As he describes it you can see that he’s exploring intensity, cooperation (complicity), honesty and much more. All of which I’ve no doubt Wright would say are essential for physical comedy – which brings us back to the book summary.
Wright works through games. Not simply as warm-ups, but through play and games in their own right – exploring how play works, what it does to us, what it can reveal, what it can create. Working with games, Wright argues, releases the performer from the constraints of our usual examination of dramatic circumstances of scenes. But ‘You won’t necessarily wreck the scene . . . looking beyond them [the dramatic circumstances], your work has the potential to become more poetic, more theatrical. All practitioners reading this book (and I recommend that you do read it) will see the truth in what he says.
Wright outlines game after game as he explores his work. Each game is remarkably simple, yet the levels of discovery and experience frequently are just as remarkably complex and revealing.
Wright has an enviable gift of debunking – while provoking deep discussion. ‘I find the idea that acting must be ‘truthful’ deeply irritating. The more credible we are in the theatre, the bigger the lies we’re trying to tell. Theatre is one big benign lie . . . .’
And later in the book, ‘Anybody talking about you finding your clown character is hopelessly missing the point. Clown has nothing to do with character. A clown is a credibly stupid version of you . . . ‘ This is taken from the section of the book in which Wright examines three types of clown – simple, pathetic, tragic. For those of us who love it but have never done it – a great revelation.
If you would like to buy the book visity Nick Hern Books website – www.nickhernbooks.co.uk – or use the link below to buy from Amazon.