Goodbye… I’m Leaving: The Joyful Case of a Clown Quitting a Show. . . and Failing!
Claudio Del Toro and Armando Gonzalez may be the perfect clown pair. As we sit for our interview in a cafe’ on Nicholson Street, packed with people even in the final days of the Fringe, they make me laugh and play off of each other’s jokes as if they were on stage. You can immediately feel the connection and respect in this dynamic duo. “Finding a good partner is like finding true love” Del Toro states “you only get it once in a lifetime” (paraphrased by author). He continued, “you have to love your partner and trust your partner” so that if you start feeling doubts you can think “no problems, my partner is so good that tonight is going to be an amazing show.” Gonzales echoed his colleague: “everything is about complicity.” Seating in the audience at one of their performances, you can see what they mean directly.
The pair met at the École Philippe Gaulier, an internationally-renowned school of theatre in Paris, which revolves around the idea of ‘Le Jeu’, or ‘play’, and specialized in clown. It promotes the idea that acting should be about playing a game and the pleasure it derives from it, thus appealing to the audience’s inner child and imagination. Del Toro and Gonzales met in 2016, during a clown workshop and became what may appear as unlikely friends; the former, a professional and experienced actor from Italy, where he opened his own theatre company La Barca dei Soli, the latter, a Mexican architect. “We tried different things and nothing worked” said Gonzales “then we started with this game of having one angry clown telling people off for laughing, and we had a show” (paraphrased by author). Del Toro continued “we were like two lovable idiots . . . and yet we had this conflict [between the characters]”.
In fact, the whole show revolves around two clowns who try to perform something which would be considered ‘high theatre’, namely the opera and the celebrated song Funiculì Funiculà, with the audience expected to laugh on cue. However, ‘Le Jeu’ revolves around this juxtaposition of the angry clown who throws a tantrum and tries to leave the stage (although his goodbye is never-ending), and the lovable idiot who is just looking for a laugh. “The clown is like a child who seeks the attention of mommy and daddy in the audience . . . but doesn’t really have a clue” says Del Toro, “here is the magic, when you have pleasure on stage.” The magic and the pleasure, the actors agreed, comes from the release felt when one allows him/herself to go back in touch with their childhood, free to laugh at whatever feels right. “The job of the clown is to react” they both concurred “you have to try various things and see what works . . . the clown is bent on making you laugh and they are ready to lay themselves bare to do so” (paraphrased by the author).
I believe that Goodbye… I’m Leaving is the epitome and the perfect summary of all that they say about their creative credo. It is a wondrous combination of slapstick, ingenuity, partnership, playfulness, and implied irony which speaks to all sorts of people. It is genuinely entertaining to forget oneself for a time and enjoy a blissfully-childish laugh. Del Toro and Gonzalez are a magic duo, and their incredible connection envelops the audience making you want to go on and play along with them until, with some regret, you have to say “goodbye!”
written by Eleonora Calviello