When I go to theater-circus Price of Madrid I don’t go directly to the seat, rather I wander through the corridors. They are adorned with black and white photos of the artists who passed through the original Price, the one where the Ministry of Culture stands today (what a paradox, the old stable circus was demolished to build the headquarters of a bank that was later occupied by a ministry, as a reminder that culture has its roots in the circusbut needs capital).
I browse the photos and stay riveted to the portraits of the clowns. In general they are trios in the classic way, but to me I only care about the one with a white face, red ears and a single black eyebrow, the one who usually wears a conical cap and wears a showy and elegant suit that reaches to his knees and is studded with sequins. This clown is also known as ‘clever clown’to differentiate him from the other two, his counterpoint, the august, those with wigs, red noses, huge shoes and outlandish clothing, who make us laugh with their blunders and crazy ideas that lead to disaster. The white-faced clown is a descendant of the Commedia dell’Arte. It was popularized in England in the mid-18th century by some Italians. Represents law, order, the adult world, repression…
Fear to fail
Clowns to many children of my time, although they made us laugh, they also instilled fear in us. Fear of being a clown ourselves, that is, the one who fails, the one who breaks things, the one who doesn’t know how to follow instructions, the one who goes off the beaten path and who gets scolded. At least that was my feeling when on TV I saw Gaby, Fofó and Miliki make a mess of noses with the invaluable cooperation of Mr. Chinarro. It generated unbearable tension for me to break thingsthat would disrupt the established order. I couldn’t identify with them, or perhaps I over-identified and suffered from the consequences and punishments I imagined for such outlandish behavior.
That’s why the neat and distinguished character of the smart clown reassured me, not because he was smart, but because he used to be welcoming and sympathetic with the pranks of others and he didn’t complain if from time to time he got a smack of cream on his face too. Clown troupes were often brothers in real life and it consoled me to see that, despite the nonsense, they professed affection and accepted each other’s clumsiness. And then there was the beauty of that impeccable outfit, the white stockings, the refined shoes.
the last suit
My passion is such that I dream that my last suit, the one I will wear in the open box during my wake, will be a colorful clown gown ready. It would be a great coup de effect say goodbye to this world wrapped in light and shine of my admired white-faced clowns. The distraught family and friends would not have a chance to cry. They would be stunned to see me like that. what a clown
I have asked some circus performer where they sell those costumes. They are luxurious, delicately made garments that are made to measure and it seems that in Spain there is or was a great tailor based in Barcelona. I have never been able to locate this teacher, because of the circus and its history, of its professionals, unlike other arts, we still know very little. I’ve barely been able to figure out what the main tailor was the Frenchman Gerard Vicaire who died in 2018 at the age of 91. Between 1947 and 1993 he made hundreds of models for carablancas of all the world. La Maison Vicaire, what a paradise. I read that in the Circusland of Besalú conserve 27 from them.
Being a clown only has one secret: be willing to show your shortcomings and defects in front of the other. That is why it is difficult, it cannot be faked, it is born from a real vulnerability. Each clown has his own and to perfect his art he must explore it. Not all of us are interested. It gives us vertigo and anguish to face our weaknesses. They shame us. We prefer to hide them. That’s why clowns and clowns exist, to reveal to the rest what is broken, lost, disordered within us. They embody our confusion, our smallness, defenseless before the humiliation and judgment of others. As Charlie Rivel, my other favorite clown, which my father liked so much. His number consisted of playing the guitar and crying loudly. In a house where crying was not common, it was beautiful to see the sadness exposed on the circus ring as something that could be shared.
That’s why, don’t talk to me about horror movies with clowns. They outrage me. The fear of the clown is a very different thing. It is the fear of what we ourselves have that is fragile and reckless.