Berlin music clown workshop participants, August 2018
We open up our toolbox to provide a Spymonkey ‘How To Make Brilliant Work’ guide: character, narrative, improvisations, games, writing excercises, building double-act and larger groups, musicality, song, physicality, dance. Depending on duration and experience of participants, these workshops can climax in an informal presentation performance.
How do you start to build a musical speciality act? How do you write a song that will make people piss their pants laughing? How can music unite a disparate group of performers into one vibrantly harmonic unit? We will explore how music can be a route to brilliant clown, and how clowns can create brilliant music.
An extensive programme for school and college students, GCSE/14+, A-level/16+, undergraduate and post-graduate.
An introduction to physical comedy training and tools for devising, for drama teachers and youth theatre group leaders.
Illustrated talks on a number of aspects of our work.
We have acted as consultants and directors for a number of artists and theatre companies, including Sacha Baron Cohen, Cardboard Citizens, Lyric Hammersmith, Extant, Wet Picnic, Slightly Fat Features, ATG, Unity Festival at Wales Millennium Centre, and Clown Doctors International.
In 2015 we piloted a project with Phoenix Futures, the UK's largest charitable foundation for the support of recovering addicts, using the techniques of Spymonkey's clown work to develop life skills and a sense of shared support.
We have designed workshops targeted at a number of groups with specific needs, including learning disabled performers, people recovering from addiction, partially sighted/blind and deaf performers.
We have a range of teaching resources available. These include:
As a leading practitioner of contemporary clown, devised, physical comedy and physical theatre, Spymonkey's work is studied on GCSE and A-level Drama and Performing Arts syllabuses. They are an associate company of National Independent Schools Drama Association (NISDA).
The company’s work has been the subject of a number of theses and dissertations at bachelor, postgraduate and doctorate level.
More details and updates on our Academic page.
AITOR BASAURI, Spymonkey founder and joint artistic director, is one of the most sought after teachers of clown and physical comedy in the world. His masterclasses in London, Europe and New York regularly sell out, and is a staff tutor at the Ecole Phillipe Gaulier in Paris, and for Cirque du Soleil’s Cirque du Monde foundation in Las Vegas. He has taught at New York Clown Theatre Festival, Celebration Barn Maine, The Clown School LA, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Las Vegas Theatre Hub, and at universities, institutes, and festivals to students, professionals and clown doctors all over the world including Madrid, Berlin, Damascus and Taipei.
Aitor studied at the Centro Andaluz de Teatro in Seville and at the Philippe Gaulier School in London. He has performed in every Spymonkey show to date, including Stiff (1998), Cooped (2001), Zumanity (for Cirque du Soleil 2003), Moby Dick (2009), Love In (2011), Oedipussy (2012) and The Complete Deaths (2016). He has worked as physical comedy director for Sacha Baron Cohen on ‘Grimsby' (2014) and Chichester Festival Theatre’s ‘Mack & Mabel’ (2015).
TOBY PARK is joint founder, managing artistic director, performer and musical director of the Brighton-based international theatre company Spymonkey. With Spymonkey he created and performed around the world the groundbreaking clown theatre shows STIFF, COOPED, ZUMANITY (with Cirque du Soleil Las Vegas), BLESS, MOBY DICK, OEDIPUSSY, LOVE IN and THE COMPLETE DEATHS.
Comedy director for Royal Shakespeare Company's MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR; Chichester Festival Theatre’s MACK & MABEL starring Michael Ball; director and co-creator of the Finnish clown opera FABULOUS BACKSTROM BROTHERS at Kapsakki Theatre Helsinki, and BIG BANG SIEGFRIED for Hagen Symphony Orchestra/Theatre Hagen Germany. Other directing credits include Emma Edwards and Abigail Dooley’s award-winning ENTER THE DRAGONS, Hijinx’s THE FLOP and opening and closing ceremonies for Unity Festival, Wales Millennium Centre, and Spike Theatre’s THE GAMES and SHIP OF FOOLS. He has taught clown, music and comedy workshops around the world, including the National Theatre Connections programme for directors.
Composer and musical director for Karl's Kühne Gassenschau Switzerland, Mimbre's 'Sprung', 'Tryptic' and 'The Bridge', Guy Dartnell's 'Would Say Something', Graeme Gilmour's site specific work for Kielder Water and Glasgow Canals, Northern Light's 'Electric Forest' for National Trust. Member of the Improbable's 'Lifegame' company off-Broadway and UK tour (2000).
PETRA MASSEY joint artistic director, performer and co-founder of Spymonkey, creating and performing around the world the groundbreaking clown theatre shows STIFF, COOPED, ZUMANITY (with Cirque du Soleil Las Vegas), BLESS, MOBY DICK, OEDIPUSSY, LOVE IN and THE COMPLETE DEATHS. . Other acting credits include 'Never Try this at Home' (2014) with Told by An Idiot, and at Shakespeare's Globe 2015 in Dominic Dromgoole's 'Measure For Measure' and Chorus Leader in Adele Thomson's 'Oresteia'.
Petra has extensive experience of teaching and directing, including Spymonkey workshops in clown and devising at Clown Lab Salford, New York Clown Theatre Festival, People Show Studios London, Circus Space London, Kingston University, Ravensburger Clownschule Germany and Rote Fabrik Zurich Switzerland. Director for Wet Picnic (2008-11), The Two Wrongies (2010-11), Swank (2011), Hijinx Theatre (2012), Extant (2012), Hijinx’s opening and closing ceremonies for Unity Festival, Wales Millennium Centre (2012), Naive Dance (2013), Slightly Fat Features (2012-14), Likely Story (2014), Earth Story with Gemma Rogers & Deanna Rodger (2017), and slapstick consultant for the film installation Trip Hazard (2013).
Testimonials & Resources
Jane Nichols / professor, Yale School of Drama
“Aitor has boundless energy. He loves what he teaches and he loves to teach. Aitor’s easy, even temperament is as genuine and reassuring as it is compelling and empowering. His enthusiasm for what he does is evident and contagious. He approaches his students as he approaches the material … with humor, with clarity and authority, with knowledge, and with profound respect. Just as he and the other members of the remarkable Spymonkey approach weighty, sometimes perverse or tragic material with humor and a touch of grace, so to, as Aitor approaches a student’s despair or resistance or personal tragedy he applies the same humor and grace. That his professional work aligns dignity with absurdity is testimony to his genius as an artist. That he, as an artist, is dedicated to eliciting that same sensibility from his students is testimony to his depth as a humanist, - and to his commitment to education.”
Video / National Theatre devising masterclass
Part of the National Theatre Discover online resource, a workshop for young performers by Toby Park exploring ways to uncover comedy through the process of devising.
Video / Storm Workshop at the Lyric Hammersmith
Workshop symposium for performers of mixed abilities, with Push, Graeae, Frantic Assembly. Video produced by Deafeatures
Gemma Rogers / singer/songwriter, performer, playwright
“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.”
Liam Woodman / TV writer (NOT GOING OUT, LA LA LAND)
“It was fantastically liberating. The workshop is about being yourself and tapping into what is uniquely funny about you. At first it was pretty intimidating to stand in front of the group with out acting-up or spouting rehearsed funnies, but in time with encouragement, help and expert guidance from wonderful tutor Aitor Basauri it becomes a joy to lose yourself in the moment and improvise. Aitor has a wealth of experience as performer and teacher and was an incisive tutor. The advice he gave each of us students was unique to us, reinforcing the idea that the workshop was about your own private funniness. The group were perhaps the warmest and most generously supportive bunch I have ever had the privilage to work with and that undoubtedly added to the security I felt. Failing or ‘flopping’ became as much fun as getting a laugh, nearly.”
Amy Saunders / Miss Behave - performer (Variety Nighty, La Clique, La Soirée)
"Best workshop ive ever done. safe but playing with risk. light but deep, and FUN! so much fun!"
Mark Winstanley / drama tutor at University of Salford, Clown Lab
"I think that Aitor explained the games and exercises just enough for us to understand but he held back from over explaining if we were a little unsure. As a teacher I know that this is a really delicate balance to strike, explain too much and students play to the end they think you want. Explain too little and they can be totally lost. Everyone had at least one “Golden Moment” on the course. A moment that they will remember for a long time"
Garth Cutter, Manchester - Cutteruption blog
"To say I was nervous on the way to the first session is an understatement. I thought I’d be a fish out of water, a moron, not knowing my stage left from my stage right. As it turned out, it didn’t need to; in fact, needing to but not knowing would probably have been clown comedy gold. Everyone triumphed and flopped at one point or another, even the experienced people, so it didn’t matter that I was new to it... I guess the final question from anyone interested would be: ‘have the workshops been useful’? Yes, definitely: only recently the techniques I learned turned an awkward situation into one of the most enjoyable moments of my relatively short performance career."
Johnny Macaulay / Johnny Electrolux, London performer
"You did a fine job, you pushed but didnt bully, delivered bad news in a "shit sandwich" (complement/ criticism/ complement) and left no-one feeling belittled. I have been on other clown courses and this was one of the best."
Kalki Henenberg / 'Kalki Hula Girl', performer Australia I had never done a clown workshop before participating in Spymonkey's Clown Masterclass. I was terrified before even arriving on the first day - partly because i knew i would be working with mostly professional actors and street performers, and, while i am a performer, my work is essentially visual-sensation/short spots in variety shows. Plus, I hold Spymonkey's work in the highest regard and i didn't want Aitor to know how un-funny i really am. I was quite nervous the entire time, and shy, so i possibly didn't take nearly as many risks as would have benefitted me. But i listened very hard, and a lot did go in, despite being, as Aitor said, Very Estupid. I learned SO MUCH. Aitor has an incredible facility for explaining a point both verbally, and experientially with the use of games and exercises. It was hard work, and it was satisfying, despite day after day flopping left right and center. (And never once managing to master Mister Hit. Not once. Yeesh).
I do believe my own work has benefitted greatly from the workshop and as the information absorbed so intensively has time to resonate from my brain into my body, i think will continue to improve. I would do another one at the drop of a hat."
Peter Daniel Strauss, performer, New York This was workshop number two for me, and I can’t wait for number three! I’ve been moving into some new, exciting clowning territory in my work as a direct result of working with Spymonkey and I’m having so much fun!
Andrea Foa journalist, Italy What an amazing week! Huge, huge thank you to Aitor, Petra and each and everyone of you who took part in the workshop for being so supportive with a non-performer, you made me feel at home from the very beginning, which allowed me to take risks and have fun. Go Spymonkey!
Herma Vos dancer & chanteuse, Holland One week of fun, incredible laughs and such a good time!! Sharing all this with a groupe of adorable people....I JUST LOVED IT.....!!
Vera Chok actress, Malaysia/London Belly-laughter, support, ideas, and real friendships. Definitely returning for future sessions. Highly recommended for those new to clowning, as well as for old hands.
Since our inception in 1998, Spymonkey have created some of the most outstandingly original theatre in Britain, drawing on the disciplines of clown, physical theatre and devised theatre. Widely acknowledged as world leaders in the field of clown and physical comedy, we are keenly sought as teachers, consultants and directors for our insight and experience in creating brilliant, original and singular work.
Using the techniques developed through our creative process, we explore how these methods can be used by participants to discover their own unique style of work, through a range of artist development courses for professional performers and students outlined below.
We offer arts business workshops and mentoring, workshops targeted at universities, performing arts colleges, schools and teacher training, work with learning-disabled performers and addicts in recovery.
As leading international practitioners of devised, clown and physical theatre, Spymonkey's work is studied in universities around the world and have been the subject of numerous PhD and undergraduate theses.
Student performers taking part in a Spymonkey devising masterclass for National Theatre's Discovery online resource
An examination of the fundamental principles of our work. Suitable for all levels of experience, from novice to seasoned professional. We regularly host our own masterclasses in London, Brighton, New York, LA, Berlin and Bilbao, and have been invited to teach workshops in Mexico, Taiwan, Colombia, Romania, Austria, Hungary, Finland, Sweden, Canada, USA and Switzerland.
where we've been
Spymonkey have taught around the world, including:
UK teaching & lectures have included:
Unity Festival THE CLOSING, residency with Hijinx Theatre Company, Wales Millenium Centre 2012