Self devising in silver spandex and a red nose

I’m starting to think that all of this children’s teaching is turning me into a five year old. At the very least, it’s changing the way I think. I’ve been staring at the computer trying to write a column and instead I’ve written an acrostic poem and a short story in rhyming couplets. I’m genuinely concerned that I’m going to start enjoying conversations about ponies and magical snowmen, or worse, initiating them. I wonder if there’s any research to suggest that this is a bi-product of teaching theatre to children. But who cares about research, let’s draw a panda!

Kate Walder
Kate Walder. Image by Blueprint Studios

It could be worse; I could be dressed as a giant dust mite in a shopping centre. Oh wait I did that. Well I could be cleaning toilets or staring at statistics, or I could have no arms. All of these things are definitely worse than inadvertently regressing back to infancy – and they pay a lot less.

So I’m not complaining, I’m just making an observation.

How great is that line to justify saying whatever you want? In Paris we had a movement teacher who would preface everything with “This is not a judgement, it’s an observation…” which then gave him licence to drop massive truth bombs like “you protect your heart.” I started to think about using the phrase before really extreme statements such as “This is just an observation, but your thighs look absolutely huge in that dress” or “you’ve ruined our relationship – again, not a judgement, just an observation.” Anyway, it’s good and I’m stealing it for general life use.

Apart from teaching and offending people with observations, I’ve also been spending a lot of time with my clown. Sally is awesome! She is the best version of me. Her real name is Silver-Foil Sally because she is covered from head to toe in silver foil (it’s important to be ambiguous). It was either that or Tin-Foil Tahnee, but I didn’t like it as much. I’ve been going into a studio with Sally a couple of times a week and practising being sensitive and ridiculous. Initially I just wanted to keep exploring the tools I had learnt in Paris, but I started to realise I had quite a lot of material so I asked a director to come in. I mainly wanted to know if I was completely mad, but he’s been wonderful in helping me piece it all together and I’m hoping to try it out somewhere soon. It’s not strictly clown – I mean it starts off that way but when her rocket ship breaks on the moon and the Rabbi and a Frenchwoman turn up, it all gets a bit avant garde.

I’m truly loving this process of devising. After the first session with my director/clown consultant, I went back into the studio and tried to integrate all the information he had given me. But I stopped playing because I was half in clown brain and half in director brain, analysing everything as I went. It’s similar to the writing process – they say never write and edit at the same time. So I got stuck in adult logic and it became heavy and laborious. When I saw Scottie on Tuesday I told him that I was in a tunnel and couldn’t solve any of the problems. We spent two hours unlocking the whole thing and finally struck gold. He showed me how I had gone into adult logic rather than clown logic – where you can set anything up and if it makes sense to the clown then the audience will come on board. Suddenly I felt the magic and freedom of the process again, which is a fantastic barometer for whether something will work or not. Philippe would always say, “We don’t want to see your shitty idea. If you show us an idea you are a bastard. We want to see your soul.” Not much to ask. But I understand this more and more as I continue to work in the clown realm.

So it’s all going quite well… until the Les Mis launch happens and everyone in the industry is plunged into an existential crisis. I suddenly thought, “What am I doing? Why am I making a clown show when I really want to be on the barricades? Oh God I’ve missed the boat! The ship has sailed and I’m on the moon with a fucking Rabbi!” But as my housemate often reminds me “What’s yours won’t pass you by,” so I guess I was always destined to be alone on stage in silver spandex and a red nose.

Well that’s it from me. I say this every time but I’ll try not to leave it so long between columns. Have a great week in the theatre and sunshine.


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

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