Campness and Clowness - by Kimberley Twiner (PO PO MO CO)
This written piece was commissioned by Midsumma in April 2020 as a response to the mass loss of the Melbourne queer arts industry (due to COVID-19). This blog is part of a series of works from our LGBTQIA+ arts and culture community that gives Midsumma audiences an insight into the practice of the queer arts and helps to make queer arts and cultures more accessible to diverse audiences in this time of social distancing and uncertainty.
Kimberley Twiner kicked off PO PO MO CO in December 2015. PO PO MO CO are now an award winning ensemble of queer physical comedians. They are dedicated to creating stupid as heck theatre through a queer lens.
~ by Kimberley Twiner
Campness and Clowness. These two concepts go hand in hand for me. I’ve been training in clown for over ten years, I think I was conscious of being a clown before being conscious of being a queer. Project PO PO MO CO (Post Post Modern Comedy) came together almost five years ago with the goal to make some sketch comedy together. Most of us had met whilst studying at John Bolton Theatre School or through Clown Jams in Melbourne. It also happened that most of us were queer.
It wasn’t until last year when I came across Susan Sontag’s Notes on Camp essay (yeh I know bad queer) that I saw these gleaming, glowing connections between what we aspired to as clowns and what Susan was going on about. It seemed like we were shooting for similar things.
‘Pure camp is always naive.’ Campness and clownness share a naivety. When we made a bum puppet by bending over and sticking a dodgy wig and eyes on our butt we felt like we were geniuses! This is the stupidest idea ever, but commitment to that idea saw the hilarious camp as hell Iggy Azalea ‘Fancy’ act come about. There is something important in the naivety of ‘this is all we’ve got’. When we make dresses out of bulk tablecloth found at Savers, it is a naive expression that says this is all I’ve got, this is all I know right now. And it’s a beautiful thing to stand in one’s own naivety.
‘(Camp) finds success in certain passionate failures.’ Clowns usually don’t do things very well. They fail or flop, they never really fit the status quo, they always get the wrong end of the stick, they didn’t watch the full youtube tutorial. There is a fine art to successfully failing, and doing it passionately. By passionately I mean totally embodied, totally outward and proud, with guts, and arms and legs. It’s a level of physical play that my main clown theatre teacher calls ‘unsinkable’. Think of our Chicago ‘He Had It Coming’ number from our recent show. Baby Cheesus in heaven that was a passionate flop of a musical theatre piece. It’s like, wow, they really failed, at the choreo, at the fishnets, at the chairs, at the hair, at the lipstick, at the unison, at the singing, at the words. The list goes on, but that’s one helluva hysterical flop of an act.
‘Dethrones the serious.’ When an audience watches a camp or clown work they are liberated from the trap of their intelligence. In both these forms usually characters or personas are far too much, or far too less, there is no middle ground. Camp and clown work is a whirring spectacle of the extremities happening in the here and now. And every move it makes is for the audience. It says I’m here! You are here! You’re looking at me and I am ridiculous! And I’m looking at you and you are ridiculous! It asks, is it all really that serious!? Can’t we all just breathe for fuck’s sake? In fact I’m gonna make you breathe. Hopefully by making you laugh! Laugh at me, laugh at this stupid world in all it’s excess and redundancy! Why are we all terrified of being too much or not enough? We are too much or not enough, so let’s dance it! We are all just wonderfully stupid.
~ to find out more about Kimberley Twiner visit www.popomoco.com