Artist Development Courses

Music in Clown & Comedy

Music has always played a huge part of the Spymonkey creative process - we think early on in our writing about what the show might offer in the way of deliciously inappropriate original songs, musical theatre genres that we want to explore, unlikely cover versions of existing songs, speciality variety acts, original music in a range of genres and styles to inspire us to new choreographic heights, sound effects that establish their own theatrical conventions (and then break them hilariously).






13th - 17th January 2020


Toynbee Studios London


More details here

Spymonkey's BLESS (2007)

FABULOUS BACKSTROM BROTHERS (2014) a clown opera directed by Toby Park and Aitor Basauri.

In this 5 day workshop we will explore how Spymonkey use music to lead us into unique and totally original comedic territory. We will explore Pleasure: the clown’s pleasure of being ridiculous on stage, the generous pleasure of playing with our friends, the pleasure of performing music together, the pleasure of pursuing grand ambitions, of unlikely choices, of aiming high, of making terrible mistakes and failing woefully! The pleasure of making an audience laugh their socks off.


How do you start to build a musical speciality act? How do you create a brilliant dance routine? How do you write a song that will make people piss their pants? How can music unite a disparate group of performers into one vibrantly harmonic unit? (And then have it all fall apart again catastrophically?) Using the principles of clown that will be familiar to students of Spymonkey’s work - vulnerability, generosity, pleasure, optimism, complicity - we will explore all these things and more.


If participants have an instrument they’ll be asked to to bring it with them. But they won’t need to be able to play an instrument, or to sing, or to have done a Spymonkey workshop before, to stretch their musical and comedic sensibilities in order to create new work unique to them.


AGE 18 and upwards


GROUP SIZE up to 20 participants.


LENGTH Usually five days, but we can also provide shorter one- or two-day courses and taster sessions



  • professional actors and performers
  • drama schools
  • undergraduate and graduate level performing arts
  • professional theatre companies
  • special needs and mixed ability groups


Please contact us for more details of how our workshops can be tailored to specific groups.



GEMMA ROGERS singer/songwriter, performer, playwright says:


“Imagine being in a class with a group of people wearing luminous tutus, beaver tails and loo paper scarves where you are praised for being an idiot. In fact you revel in those words. Because on some level, It means you have succeeded (temporarily) in the complex art of clowning.


“As a writer, words are my ammunition. Without them and armed only with your face and physicality, it can feel strange - scary even -  but under Toby Park’s magical guidance I began to push through the boundaries. With the use of funny improv exercises, discussions and musical instruments ( not to mention Toby tuning several bottles of water to fit the notes for a song from Carmen ) - a group of us  performed songs and  one man acts to a hell of a lot of laughter. I left the Toynbee studios feeling I’d shed 15 years of my life.


“If you ever get a chance to embark on a Spymonkey clowning workshop- be brave and jump at it - no red noses or big flappy feet required.” (still from My Idea of Fun)


JESS GILL head of drama, St Mary's School Hertfordshire & Berlin workshop participant


"The music and comedy workshop with Spymonkey is absolutely glorious! I can't recommend it enough. I have been teaching Drama for 12 years and this is the best workshop I have done on both a personal and professional level. You don't need to have to able to play an instrument, sing or even be funny - just bring a sense of fun and willingness to give it a go, everyone can access it on their own level, we had a mixture of street performers, actors and teachers in our group and everyone loved it. Toby is a master of his craft and teaches with the same sparkle, humour and generosity that you can see on stage. We spent most of the week laughing and made very good friends with the other people on the course. There is no pressure to perform but lots of games, improvisation and opportunities to share, everyone was nudged outside of their comfort zone and achieved far more than they thought they could.  Ideal if you have any students who want to try their hand at comedy or devising music, this course will give you the insider tips and tricks to creating something joyful together.


It changed my teaching and it changed my life. It may not change yours -  but at least you'll have a walloping good time!"


FIONA COFFEY performer/creator of HONEY'S HAPPENING says:


“Do it!! Leave your inhibitions at home. It’s a super intensive boot camp. Be open.  Have fun. Don’t analyse it. Just throw yourself into it. It will change you. For the better.


“The detailed personal feedback was superb and extremely helpful. I could understand more about my areas of strength and where and how I could improve. I learned just as much by watching this process with others, as I did when trying things for myself. I particularly enjoyed the feeling of being pushed and challenged to try anything and everything. I felt that a creative crucible had been formed very quickly such that any number of things became possible. I never imagined for example that I would be able to write a comedy song.


“Exceptionally good value. The best short course I have been on in a very long time.“

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