Send in my clown, Martha the Unavoidable

Good morning all!

Image by crazycatchthecat

I hope you've had a lovely week. I've had a great one. Except for the part where I caught the bubonic plague and had to shoot new headshots with half the skin peeling off my nose and my eyes so glassy I looked like a goldfish. Apparently no amount of make up can disguise the fact that you look like a corpse and your insides are screaming “Stop snapping that thing in my face! I'm DYING!”

But apart from that… it was great!
I mentioned last week that I was about to do a clowning workshop with the wonderful Dr Brown. Now just to clarify, this isn’t the kind of clowning where you ride unicycles up and down walls and learn how to turn a smart brooch into a water squirting device. This type of work is about discovering and revealing the clown within you. It is essentially about being completely vulnerable and open-hearted in front of an audience and allowing them to see your true spirit. Sensitivity is the key and you are totally attuned to the audience the whole time. If you feel yourself losing them, you stop what you're doing and check in. It's a bloody scary place for most people, to stand on stage with nothing – no clever lines or tricks or songs – and just allow yourself to be seen. And once you have connected with the audience truthfully, then you offer an idea. If you get a good reaction you keep going it with it. You want to make them laugh and release with you, so if it doesn't work, you drop it and try something else.

Obviously this method is for the purposes of the clown. You can't be doing A View from the Bridge and check in with the audience to see if they love you or not. But the clown wants to be loved, the clown is innocent and lost in the universe. Like ME! Like all of us, I guess. But there is a lot of really beautiful stuff that is transferable as an actor. Opening your sensitivity, dropping your layers of protection and allowing yourself to truly be seen. It is the scariest and most generous thing you can do as a performer. Dr Brown (otherwise known as “Phil”) said to me “People don't come to see your show Kate, they come to see your spirit. We want to see your spirit.” How beautiful is that? And it's true. When an artist is singing away and suddenly they have a moment where they drop their slick persona, or laugh at themselves, where they have a moment of humility, it is where we as an audience love them the most because we see their humanness.

It was such an awesome three days. I was terrified at first of being “in the shit” as he called it, which is essentially whe

re you try to be funny and you're not. You're really not. He was out there banging a saucepan and you had to come on stage over and over again and do something – anything – the more idiot the better – and when it didn't work (as it inevitably didn't), you had to really admit the flop, that is, sit “in the shit.” It was always in this moment that the audience would laugh with you, and then you could start playing again. Once we had a basic understanding of this concept, we started to develop the work in pairs. By the end of the third day I was making an absolute idiot of myself in tap shoes, a purple cape and an oversized crash hemlet as “Martha the Unavoidable.” Don't ask. It just happened in the moment. My partner, who I had named Reginald, kept trying to lift me up but every time we attempted it my helmet would fall in front of my face and my hair would go everywhere and I'd run around trying to compose myself. It was so simple and yet everyone was in hysterics. And honestly I have never felt so free! The pressure is taken off because you're not forcing something onto the audience and pretending it's all going well when you know it's not. You're allowing them to feed you and as a result, they feel as though they have helped to create the experience.

As you can see, I'm kind of in love with this stuff. I'm also kind of in love with Dr Brown himself, but that's another story. All I'll say is, if you ever get a chance to see his work, GO (he did a couple of shows at the Old Fitz last week too)! You might get your bag stolen or your beer poured out, you may even get straddled by him mid-show, but it's probably the most fun you'll have at the theatre.

The other lovely thing that happened this week was the wedding of my dear friend Katie McKee. We were in the same year at WAAPA, although we first met back in 2005 when we went to New York and LA on a dance tour and Katie sprained her ankle the second she got off the plane. She was carted round in a wheel chair the entire trip and I remember bonding with her in Starbucks over the worst coffee in the world. She was telling me about a boy she had just met… I was telling her about a boy I had just met… well now she's married to him and I'm single and dressing up as Martha the Unavoidable. I guess you can't fight your destiny!

Anyway, it was a beautiful wedding and a chance for so many of us from WAAPA to catch up and spend a weekend down in the Southern Highlands. We're all off to Melbourne next week for Weddings Part 2 when another from our year ties the knot. I suppose it's a nice reminder that you can absolutely have a normal life as an artist if you wish. You don't have to be whacky and eccentric and fly all over the world exploring your humanity. Some of us just prefer it that way 🙂


Kate Walder

Kate is a 2008 graduate of the BA Music Theatre course from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA). During her time at the academy she played the role of Linda in Blood Brothers, The Young Wife in Hello Again, Marguerita in West Side Story and featured in the ensemble of Sweeney Todd and Oklahoma!, for which she was Dance Captain. After moving to London in 2009 Kate played the role of Clio in La Dispute at the Soho Theatre and subsequently at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Since returning to Sydney, Kate has written and performed her one-woman show Coffee with Kate: the Cabaret at the 2010 inaugural Sydney Fringe Festival, a show based on a series of weekly columns she wrote for She is currently co-writing a new show with a fellow WAAPA graduate which will premiere later in the year.

Kate Walder

One thought on “Send in my clown, Martha the Unavoidable

  • great stuff keiche. you clown you

Comments are closed.