Red Bastard: bouffon

Red Bastard. Photo: Justin Bernhaut

Comedy monster Red Bastard was created by top US bouffon Eric Davis, with input from Deanna Fleysher and Sue Morrison. Eric appeared in Cirque du Soleil’s Iris, won the 2010 NY Downtown Golden Nose Award for Clown of the Year and is a founder of the New York Clown Theater Festival. Red Bastard has played to sell-out audiences worldwide – his mission: to charm, disarm, shock and seduce

How did you get into clowning?

I was taking a physical theatre class from this guy at the University of Kansas who’d been a Lecoq teacher. Someone who knew about the Lecoq school said “Can we try clown?” He just said, “Well, the thing about clowning is if the audience doesn’t like you, then that’s it.” I think because he didn’t teach us clown I became one. It was like being starved of candy when you’re a kid, then you eat more candy.


Why did you create Red Bastard?

We were getting more curious about bouffon; a clown as being a bit of a joke. The audience laughs at the clown’s ridiculousness and flaws, or the clown laughs at the flaws of the audience or archetypes in society. I took a workshop with Sue Morrison [artistic director of the Theatre Resource Centre, Toronto, and international bouffon teacher] and found I had some facility for it. I think I was good at mocking things and ended up doing a sort of parody of that professor. People really enjoyed it.


What should people expect from his show?

To laugh… sometimes people literally pee their pants laughing. Sometimes people might be surprised or scared for moments – not the entire show – or feel they have an incredibly intimate relationship with me. Sometimes everyone will be in tears, sometimes people jump out of their seats with passion, sometimes they’re protesting something, or they do things that make the rest of the audience jump up in spontaneous applause. Everyone will have a number of those experiences and find out what kind of person they are.


Is he anything like you?

A very special place is created in the theatre. In a way the character is a type of mask. It can draw things both out of me and the audience, which are extraordinary. I get to express parts of me that I don’t usually express socially. I’m a diplomatic guy in life, pretty non-confrontational. I suppose there are types of confrontation in the show but it’s more like people being confronted with themselves.


Is he fun to play?

Absolutely. Sometimes in life things kind of become rote a little bit. OK, I do this every day and I do that every day, so it’s nice when I go into a space with a bunch of people and be Red Bastard, and like wow, it’s something unusual. That is a lot of fun.


Red Bastard runs at the Pleasance, London, from April 29-May 6.