Local performer Britt Plummer honed her clowning skills in France, studying under the master Philippe Gaulier. Her latest Fringe offering Fool’s Paradise runs until March 19.
Three minutes with Britt Plummer
Gen Where did you grow up and what did you love as a kid?
Britt I grew up in Birdwood in the Adelaide Hills on a small farm with lots of animals. I got involved in the performing arts pretty early, ballet at the local town hall and later jazz ballet, drama classes, singing and piano. I was also in the local community theatre company productions with my dad.
Gen What first inspired you to become
Britt I was always a pretty out-there kid, I performed with the primary school choir and in plays from a young age. When I was 11, I was in Les Miserables with the local community theatre company. I have memories of seeing a lot of theatre and musicals at the Adelaide Festival Centre. When I was 12, I saw Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge and fell in love and realised this was something I definitely wanted to do as a career. My entire high school years were focused on that, working towards auditioning for drama school.
Gen What drama school did you attend?
Britt I studied acting at Adelaide College of the Arts after a gap year. A highlight of my time there was playing Phoebe in As You Like It, directed by Terry Crawford. I loved comedy, I found a lot of freedom in it. After graduating from AC Arts I gigged as an actress but found the opportunities limited. An avid theatregoer, I discovered Philippe Gaulier, who is internationally recognised as a “master of clown”, through the Adelaide Fringe and the international festival circuit. There were a bunch of performers who were presenting their own devised work and they had a powerful connection with the audience. They were funny, playful, surprising, often enigmatic, and they studied with Philippe Gaulier’s school in France. I asked a couple of these performers about it and they said, “Go, you won’t regret it”. I studied the summer school first and then went back a year later and studied the two-year program. It was a life-changing experience, studying alongside performers from all over the world, a melting pot of language and culture. My experience at the school has completely changed my approach to theatre and has carved a career for me not only as an actress, but as a theatre-maker, director and teacher. I teach clown and bouffon at the Adelaide College of the Arts and do workshops for various organisations around the state. I’ve made it my mission to surround myself with artists who inspire me.
Gen Can you describe the kind of physical storytelling/clowning you perform?
Britt It’s a hybrid of storytelling, physical theatre and clowning. My teacher Philippe would say, “The clown has a beautiful dream, a dream to be with the audience, to make them laugh. When the audience laughs the clown is alive”. I’m attracted to this style of performance because it is very honest, the clown has the ability to spark wonder and joy and create a feeling of community in the room.
Gen Tell us about your 2023 Fringe show Fool’s Paradise – is it true it was inspired by your long-distance relationship?
Britt Yes, it is. It’s about love and borders. An “impossible” love, and what it means to have a long-distance relationship in the 2020s and the impossible hoops we need to shoot through to prove that love in order to stay together. It tracks a period of time when we couldn’t go anywhere. This time last year I hopped on a plane to the UK, it was a week after the international borders opened, and the Omicron Covid variant was discovered – there were only 40 people on the plane and those I spoke to were off to see family. I think my story is very relatable and without giving too much away, Fool’s Paradise is inspired by my relationship with a Swedish clown and ultimately explores the question: how do we continue when dreams and reality clash? It has a lot of heart. I have an amazing team working with me on the show, British director and performer Jess Clough-MacRae (Attenborough and his Animals, MANBO, Shakespeare SA’s Twelfth Night) and Paul Westbrook (Rouge), with costume design by Chelsea Farquhar, who is an ACE Gallery resident.
Gen What stories do you think are important to tell through your work?
Britt Through my work I tell my stories, and foster others to do the same. Stories that explore the human experience, that we can relate to, spark curiosity, have universality, make us think and have a call to action.
This article first appeared in the February 2023 issue of SALIFE magazine.
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