For Raymond Keane, Life's A "Circus"

Raymond Keane
Artistic Director of Barabbas Theatre Company
And creator and director of CIRCUS

I'd like to start by answering the question I ask myself almost on a daily basis which is, "Why do I do what I do, or, why do I make theatre?" And the only answer I can truly give is "Because I have to!" Making theatre is what I am. Being a clown is who I am. At the core of all that I am and do is the sublime discipline of Theatre of Clown. What is clown? For me the clown mirrors all of humanity, in all its joy, love, beauty, truth, vulnerability, gullibility and failure, with all our bumps, warts and hairy arses. Why clown? There is an ancient Sanskrit word Lila meaning play but not only play but Devine Play. I believe in 'play' we are with our truest selves, in the moment, in the now, and if we were able to stop to think we might be able to know something of what and who we are. The clown embraces the 'now' - authentically present in direct conversation with his audience and whatever happens, happens. Of late I take much inspiration from Native American cultures where the clown is believed to be a messenger from the Gods working between the Gods of thunder and lightning - look out New Haven - but after the storm come the calm. Native American culture also believes that there are six directions of the self: North, South, East, West, Above Above and Below Below. If we were to see ourselves in all six directions at the same time we could only laugh at the beauty of our own ridiculousness.

And so to CIRCUS. My making of Circus was inspired by the 1957, incidentally the year I was born, Federico Fellini's cinematic masterpiece, La Strada. It is perhaps my favourite film of all time. A simple story of love, loss and redemption played out through a trinity of characters, the brute, the fool and a clown angel. I sometimes wonder if my attraction to these trinities is connected to my Catholic, although now non practicing, upbringing. While Circus is as far away from its original inspiration it still retains its trinity of characters and themes but it is also about 'the circus' in all its glamorous, brutal and seductive nature. Why or what is it that seduces us into wanting to 'run away with the circus'?

And so why bring CIRCUS to New Haven Festival of Arts & Ideas. The plain, simple and honest answer is that Director of Programming, Cathy Edwards, invited us and in Barabbas we never pass up an almost anything. A huge thank you to you Cathy for the honour of playing at your prestigious Festival.

Now let me go off on one and you might need to take this with a pinch of salt but humour me at least? Supposing we replaced the metaphor of CIRCUS to the United States of America? It is certainly true to say that Irish people/immigrants, and indeed immigrants the world over, have long been seduced by the glamorous, seductive and dare I say, brutal nature of this great country. And what, in these challenging times of world economic downturn on the one hand coupled with the great 'white hope' that still newly elected President Barack Obama and his vision for equality and change might offer us all for the future. What will be the new glamour, the new seduction and with cynical benevolence, the new brutality?

I will finish with two short statements. I had the fortune and honour to attend a talk given by Liz Lerman of the Dance Exchange some months back and was hugely inspired by a coupling of words she carries with her approach to her work/life which were - 'rigour and nurture'. Supposing President Barack Obama, the new America and the rest of us were to embody these simple yet powerful words - where might they take us?

And finally, as we put the final gloss in rehearsals with CIRCUS, polish our noses and pack our bags for this important trip to New Haven, our excitement to play and talk with you all is nearly unbearable.

And now I will really finish, but with another thought from another clown tradition which goes like this - 'Clowns are like angels, sometimes they bring the message and sometimes they are the message'.