In this article, Canadian theatre scholar Eury Colin Chang draws on his own training and performance experiences, as well as interviews conducted with two master bouffon teachers, to explore the bouffon’s critical capacities. Furthermore, he reflects on what these critical capacities might offer to the contemporary Canadian theatrical landscape. While Canada has been recognized internationally for our focus on physical theatre, circus arts, and even clowning, the specific clown tradition of bouffon is often given less attention and consideration. In contexts where bouffon is discussed, the emphasis is generally placed on the roots of this tradition in Europe, and the significant contemporary engagement with bouffon across Canadian is largely ignored. This article therefore fills a gap by exploring Canadian bouffon and considering what its potential might be for changing the professional theatre community here. This potential of bouffon, Chang suggests, resides in its ability to move beyond realism by offering new ways of being and seeing onstage, and in life. Furthermore, the bouffon is capable of revealing the complex interior life of the audience. This ability of bouffon to uncover, rediscover, and wrestle with the human psyche is at the core of its critical capacity.
Bouffon: The Roots of ‘Critical Clowning’ in Canada
Eury Colin Chang is a Vancouver-born scholar and current PhD candidate in the Department of Theatre and Film at the University of British Columbia. His current research focuses on the history of Asian-Canadian theatre from 1971 to 2018. Eury brings to his academic career a rich background as a performer, writer, editor, arts manager, and dramaturge. His academic writing can be found in journals (Theatre Research in Canada, Canadian Literature) and anthologies published by Playwrights Canada Press, the University of Wisconsin Press, and Arsenal Pulp Press.