6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Devon Life today click here

Maggie Irving: class clown

PUBLISHED: 14:53 22 May 2017 | UPDATED: 14:53 22 May 2017

Maggie Irving from Exmouth isn�t your stereotypical circus clown with a red nose and comedy footwear

Maggie Irving from Exmouth isn�t your stereotypical circus clown with a red nose and comedy footwear

Matt Austin

Maggie Irving from Exmouth isn’t your stereotypical circus clown with a red nose and comedy footwear and she’s certainly nobody’s fool. With a PhD in the subject, she’s positively serious about teaching the art of clowning to the uninitiated, as Sharon Goble discovered.

The first time I went along to one of Maggie Irving’s courses, some years ago, she had me howling at the moon like a wolf. Talk about “howling with laughter” - I found it both hilarious and cathartic. So I was prepared for anything when I ventured along to one of her recent “clowning classes” in Exmouth. Just as well...

A class with Maggie is about seeing the world in a different way, embracing the ridiculous and letting go of your inhibitions in front of an audience. So she had me emerging from behind a screen, improvising a range of facial expressions and exaggerated movements to express my emotions about the best and worst bits of my body. If you don’t mind, I’ll keep the details close to my chest.

“Clowning seeps into your everyday life. It’s an art form that becomes part of who you are,” Maggie tells me. “You notice the detail, are mindful of yourself, pick up on body language. It’s a wonderful skill to have in real life, it helps you empathise with people and I love it.”

Clowning is also a way of getting back in touch with the playful qualities we naturally exhibit as young children, before we become conscious of the ‘rules of society’. Maggie says: “Until about the age of 11 most children play. Then they start trying to maintain a certain status and be part of the group. Clowns play but they don’t always obey the rules. As a clown, you are playing with whatever comes into your head at that moment.”

Maggie has always loved to communicate and entertain. She worked in public relations for BT before having a family, then went to the University of Plymouth as a mature student in 2002 to do an undergraduate degree in theatre and performance.

“The course included a module on clowning. I was good at it. It was very freeing. Clowns are outrageous - they have permission to play, experiment, be naughty. Initially, I watched other people teach clowning. By the time I taught it myself seven years later, it was noticeable that students were gradually becoming more inhibited. They were coming to my clown classes as 18-year-olds and I had to rip away all they had learned and take them back to when they used to be playful.”

Maggie’s final dissertation was on Female Clowns. Hooked, she went on to do a Masters then a PhD: “The Labour government funded my doctorate in Clown Studies - it’s hilarious!”

As far as Maggie’s aware, she’s the only academic who has researched clowning through practising it as a performer: “I like to teach people to pick out the nuanced moments and then they start to build on that. Eventually it becomes automatic but you first have to learn that skill.”

Some of the greatest clowns, she says, are non-circus performers like Charlie Chaplin who used their costuming and their behaviour as their mask instead of make-up and a red nose. Maggie clowns both with and without costumes. She created the character of “Sedusa” for her final PhD performance, complete with steel-capped boots and a fantastic wig of serpents made specially for her by a local artist.

As well as clowning, Maggie now also teaches stand-up: “Clown comedy is generally about making yourself the fool. It’s very physical and embraces the ridiculous. There’s never any failure as a clown, nothing’s right or wrong. With stand-up, it’s usually the audience in a position of lower status. It’s more verbal and typically makes fun of others.”

Her classes are for people from all walks of life: business people, students, seasoned performers and the naturally curious all learning, together, how to see and show the funny side of life. It makes for a stimulating mix and reminded me, for one, how much I enjoy the adrenalin-rush of being put on the spot in front of a live audience.

“Being a comedic performer makes you resilient,” says Maggie. “You have to ‘die on stage’ a few times to be good. Die laughing, that’s what I say!” w

“I remain just one thing, and one thing only, and that is a clown. It places me on a far higher plane than any politician.” Charlie Chaplin

“Dare to wear the foolish clown face.” Frank Sinatra

“It is no coincidence that the word “clown” originally meant a country-dweller or peasant, before becoming associated with stage buffoonery.... The bumpkin was a standard character in restoration drama.” John Morrish, writer and editor

“I believe in the vital role of clowns as truth tellers, entertainers, subversives and communicators in the arts, in society and across the world.” Angela de Castro, founder of Contemporary Clowning Projects

“I think of myself as an intelligent, sensitive human being with the soul of a clown which always forces me to blow it at the most important moments.” Jim Morrison

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Devon Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Devon Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Devon Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from People

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Macmillan Cancer Support’s brand new charity fundraiser, Art 4 Macmillan, will be offering a double event in the form of a sale and special auction later this year. Kate Williams caught up with organisers Suzie Warren and Bridget Hill to find out what is in store

Read more
Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Judi Spiers talks to a North Devonian who has found himself travelling the world to instruct newcomers in a sport close to his heart

Read more
Monday, July 24, 2017

He’s one of the greatest cinematographers of all time but at home in Devon, Roger Deakins likes to take a break from the limelight. Chrissy Harris met up with him to talk movies, Hollywood and pasties...

Read more
Monday, July 17, 2017

We have covered just some of the celebrities born in Devon, however it seems that we had forgotten some. Here we have 8 more celebrities that were born in Devon

Read more
Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A new exhibition of contemporary sculpture seeks to inspire, surprise and even challenge visitors to Buckland Abbey. Claire Saul talks to the creative force behind The Art of Reflection

Read more
Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Farmer and wildlife conservationist Tim Green died in a horrific accident in February. He was just 42. Here, his best friend and business partner Rebecca Hosking tells Chrissy Harris how she and her team are carrying on in his memory...

Read more
Monday, June 19, 2017

Businessman Steve Littley sold his transport firm and left Surrey for the perfect, quiet life in Devon. A decade and £3.5million on, the building work at Cranberries Hideaway has finally finished. Kate Williams visits the former dairy farm and discovers how the journey evolved

Read more
Monday, June 19, 2017

John Wright turns back the clock to talk to a man whose job once took him around the lanes of Devon in all weathers to make sure the milk got through

Read more
Monday, June 19, 2017

Chagford’s community farm enterprise, Chagfarm arose out of two brothers’ yearning to connect farmers with local communities, writes Fran McElhone

Read more
Monday, June 12, 2017

In the latest in her series throughout 2017 profiling inspirational women, Kate Haskell talks to foster mum Wendy Hart

Read more
Monday, June 5, 2017

Dartmoor actress Victoria Lucie has made a quick transition from school to stage and screen, as she tells Jimmy Swindells

Read more
Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Made in Chelsea’s Cheska Hull tells Chrissy Harris why she’s happy to call Salcombe her home

Read more
Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Being kidnapped by pirates isn’t the only dramatic incident in the life of diver Philip Durdey, discovers Catherine Courtenay

Read more
Monday, May 22, 2017

Celebrating his 90th birthday, a retrospective spanning seven decades of work by renowned landscape artist Kenneth Webb is sure to inspire and delight this month, writes Carol Burns

Read more
 
South West Life advert link
 
A+ South & South West
 
South West Life advert link
 
South West Life advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter


Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad
Devon Life Application Link


Local Business Directory

Devon's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area



Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search