Anxiety Dream

Nov 14 2017

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Alex Tabrizi / Beyond The Ridiculous

I'm booked to do a 20 minute talk in a school. I haven't had enough time to prepare and a series of surprising people keep wanting to talk to me about completely unrelated things.

The announcement is made. "Welcome to the stage, Holly Stoppit!" 

Speckles of sporadic applause.

I look out, noticing that the audience are spread out on 2 tiers of deep shadowy booths. Squinting into the shadows, I notice they are all adults. Where are the children?

I begin a flurry of stuttering apologetic non-funny nonsense. The audience don't seem very engaged. 

I decide to look for the kids. They're out the back in a greenhouse classroom, watching me through a tiny little telly. I know I can't reach them through that, so I stay, make eye contact with them, breathe with them and give them my best material:

"It wasn't always like this, I started from humble beginnings. I grew up in the circus on a strict diet of candy floss and popcorn" 

Laughter. Phew. 

I go back into the other room to find the adults all talking amongst themselves. I push to reach them, raising my voice and ramping up my physicality. I can't reach them. I feel desperate. I notice there's music playing. Bad techno. A Spanish woman sits on the floor with a silver 1980's ghetto blaster. I make a joke:

"There's a time and a place for that and it's neither here nor now"

She looks cross as she turns it down a little bit. The adult audience has become bored and restless, picking up on my discomfort. Somehow I know that the kids are running riot.

I am losing

The Power In Performance

Nov 06 2017

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Mick Jagger Rabbit by Lucy Heard. Created during Holly Stoppit's dissertation research into Clown-o-therapy.

The Psychedelic Society of Bristol is delighted to present an evening where fools and jesters tell truth to power. How can we access altered states through performance and drama? How is silliness and improvisation related to shamanism and ritual space? Can we actually be the change we want to see in the world?

Joining us to offer their performances, practice, ponderances and pratfalls will be:

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DESPERATE MEN
https://vimeo.com/223780661
Desperate Men have been inviting people to play for over 37 years, creating, performing and producing ground-breaking outdoor theatre in the UK and internationally. As creative producers, we work on large-scale outdoor art projects and collaborate with other partners and arts organisations.We also create bespoke performances, street animations and education projects on commission and still find time for our own creative work. Collaboration is at the heart of what we do, from working with local authorities to engage communities to setting up partnerships with other artists.

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HOLLY STOPPIT
https://vimeo.com/177579754
Holly Stoppit is a facilitator, performance skills teacher, theatre director and dramatherapist, specialising in live, interactive, improvised and devised performance. Holly creates and delivers unique performance skills / self-development training courses under the brand of Holly Stoppit Workshops and as a guest university lecturer. Holly is artistic director of Beyond The Ridiculous and freelance facilitator / director / creative consultant offering bespoke services for professional theatre companies, community organisations, universities, businesses and individual artists. At the heart of all of Holly’s work is a desire to promote creative discovery and connection through play.

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SARA ZALTASH
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Yl9eZYmfj4

Sara Zaltash (b.1985) is a British-Iranian artist and Schumacher Institute Fellow working with live action, song, sound, community, ritual, conceptual enquiry, magic and the divine in order to evolve reality. 

"Zaltash is electrifying... See her if you can." – The Guardian. 
"a radical act of worship" – New York Times
"Those hushed minutes of impassioned chanting reminded us of our shared faiths, and the possibility of spiritual harmony." – Haaretz

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This will be followed by a panel discussion with all the participants, dipping into the mind-expanding qualities of performance, and roving widely across the approaches and insights that have come out of their practices

Tickets: £6 advance / £8 on the door
Advance tickets available from Headfirst:
http://hdfst.uk/E41163

Facebook event here

Embracing The Shadow Within

Nov 06 2017

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: A participant from The Inner Critic Inquiry, shared with permission

Hello! In this blog you'll get to read some of the theory underpinning The Inner Critic Inquiry as well as detailed instructions about how to safely explore your own Inner Critic. Enjoy!

The theory

Its week three of my 8-week Inner Critic Inquiry course and it just so happens to be Samhain (pronounced sah-ween), the pagan solstice festival, marking the end of the harvest and the beginning of the darkest part of the year to come. 

Samhain is said to be a time when the veil between our world and the world of the spirits is at it’s thinnest, making it a good time to ease the passage of the souls of the dead from this world into the next. It’s also a time when opportunist ghosts and ghouls pop in for a visit from the other side. 

In pagan times, during Samhain, people would light fires and send wishes for the onward journeys of their dearly departed, whilst also leaving offers of sweet treats to appease the demons, a ritual which still exists in today’s Halloween celebrations, but with the extra development of now dressing up as the scary monsters, knocking on doors and demanding sugary goodies from strangers.

Halloween is the one time of year when it’s completely normal to embrace the dark side of humanity; we flirt with death and dance with the devil and inso doing we open our hearts to the darkness that surrounds us and lives within us, as the shadow.

Carl Jung wrote at length about the shadow, describing it as “that hidden, repressed, for the most part inferior and guilt-laden personality…” living within everybody’s psyche. Jung described the shadow as personifying “everything that the subject refuses to acknowledge about himself and yet is always thrusting itself upon him directly or indirectly.” 

The theory goes, that when we are not willing to embrace all the parts of ourselves, we will find ourselves splitting parts of ourselves off. These parts, if left unacknowledged in the unconscious, will grow into monstrous forces, manifesting internally, as harmful inner voices (i.e the Inner Critic), or externally, as projections. Projecting is a thing we naturally do when there’s part of ourselves we can’t own.  Instead, we place all that is bad, ugly and evil, onto other individuals or groups of people.

Our society pedals a ridiculous notion of the existence of absolutes; black and white, right and wrong, good and bad. To support this, we are forever selecting new scapegoats to punish, so that we can feel righteous and like our energy is being well spent on eradicating evil. Once upon a time the target of hate / fear was women (well what do you know, sometimes it still is), it’s been gay people, black people, people from other cultures and religions. Right now it’s Muslims, but who knows who it’ll be next week?

As long as we are putting our energy into eradicating the enemy, we are blind to our own personal imbalance. As long as we are blaming others, we are not taking responsibility for our own shadows.

We all have a shadow. It’s a natural part of being human. Light casts a shadow via every object it shines on. Were we to regularly embrace our own shadows, like we do at Halloween, we might not need to fear the dark parts of ourselves so much. We might not need to project our shadows outwards quite so much; we might be able to see that far from being evil baddies, most people are simply trying their best to get by and to meet their needs in the ways they know how. We might be able to see that often, this week’s hated ones are merely a symbol of our unresolved discord within.

So while the veil is thin and the ghosts abound, I invite you to embrace your shadow. Attend to the part of you that never gets a look in. Do it safely, do it creatively, do it with consciousness, do it without harming yourself or anyone else, but find a way to honour the shadow part of yourself.


How to creatively embrace your Inner Critic

This week in the Inner Critic Inquiry, the participants made clay sculptures of their critics, imagining them as creatures rather than people (I find this safer and less likely to trigger trauma). You can use any creative medium of your choice, you could use clay, plasticine, pastils, felt tip pens, collage, or whatever you like. Set up your art materials before you start the next bit.


How to find your critic

-find a comfortable place to sit alone for a while

-turn off your phone, kiss your loved ones goodbye for a little bit and close the door 

-sit down, feel the ground beneath you, feel your breath in your belly, have a little check in with yourself - how are you right now?

-If at any point you feel overwhelmed, you can come back to the ground or to your breath in your belly to anchor yourself back in the present.

-run your mind back through the last week. Were there any points during the week when your inner critic made an appearance? Choose one moment. 

-Take yourself back to the memory and replay it. Where were you? Who were you with? What was being said  / done? How were you feeling?

-What were your critic’s words in this moment? Replay the scenario and listen to your critic as if it was a voice of another being, speaking about you (i.e “You are ….." "You’re not…..”)

-chose a few critic phrases and repeat them over and over in your critic’s voice.

-as you listen, notice which part of your body feels activated, this is where your critic lives

-breathe into that part of you, keep repeating their phrases

-now imagine your critic as a creature that lives inside of you (not a person)

-what’s it like? Does it have feathers, scales, fur, claws, legs? How many legs? Wings? What’s it’s face like? What’s it’s eyes like? How about it’s mouth? What size is it? How is it sitting?

-what is it’s home like?

-Once you’ve got a clear picture of your critic, reach in and take it out of your body and put it on the ground.

-watch it move through the room, how does it travel? does it scuttle, slither, slide, fly? When it reaches it’s full height, how big is it?

-make a choice to bring it back in to your body or release it out of the room, you can’t kill it (it’ll just come back in another form!)

-come back to the ground beneath you, come back to the breath in your body, come back to the room you’re in, take a look around at the familiar things, touch something soft, something shiny, something warm to bring you back to the here and now.


Make a sculpture / piece of artwork of your critic

Take 20 or so minutes to create a visual image of your critic using whatever art materials you’ve gathered.

Stay close to your experience while you’re making it. Notice your body sensations, emotions and thoughts.


When it’s finished

When it’s finished, take a good look at it, feel what you feel. Place it somewhere where you’ll be able to see it for at least a day and a night. You can make an altar for it if you like. Keep coming back to it, noticing your feelings each time. You might want to log your changing thoughts and feelings. Your curiosity is a vehicle for change.

After 24 Hours, you can make a choice to keep displaying it or to set it free. When I once ran my course near a park, many of the participants left their critics in the trees, some took theirs home and put them in their gardens, so they could watch them gradually de-compose. Follow your instinct, do what feels right.


What happens next?

Next week in The Inner Critic Inquiry, the participants will enter into dialogue with their critics, to find out what the critics are trying to protect them from. The theory being that curious inquiry leads the way to creating a new relationship with the critic.

Watch this space for updates!


Holly Stoppit is a facilitator, director and dramatherapist, find out more about her here.

If you're interested in attending this course in the future, sign up to the mailing list at the bottom of this page.

Curious Clown Cabaret

Oct 25 2017

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: meeeeee

Roll up, roll up, take your seats for a once in a lifetime experience, It's the Curious Clown Cabaret!

Feauturing 10 live and dangerous clowns, doing whatever they want. For you. Expect the unexpected!

This is the finale of Holly Stoppit's 10 week Clown To Performance course. These 10 idiots have travelled deep into the state of clown together, becoming braver, wilder, stupider and more connected as the leaves turned brown and fell off.

Now the trees are nearly naked and the clowns are nearly cooked. All we need is an audience to play with. Could it be you?

The Wardrobe Theatre, Bristol

Sunday 19th November

7.30

Pay what you decide on the night. Bring cash. Thank you.

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Beccy Golding

Famous In Bristol, Me

Oct 23 2017

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: The Spark Magazine

I'm in the current edition of The Spark Magazine!!! AAAAAAAANNNNNNNNDDDDDD.... I've been on Made In Bristol TV!!!

Holly in Print

The Spark Magazine is Bristol's finest alternative listings paper and it's back in print after a three-year lull. The article, titled "You're having A Laugh!" is about the benefits of clowning and laughter yoga for health and well being. Hannah Vickers interviewed both laughter yoga guru, Joe Hoare and me to get our unique takes on the subject.

Joe Hoare runs a laughter club in Bristol, which I thoroughly recommend. In the article, he explains how regular bouts of laughter can improve wellbeing; "The overriding benefit is the quality of life - a life that is more mindful, more resilient, more connected, 'lighter' and more enjoyable."

My published thoughts were taken from the following full interview, explaining why I do what I do and how I think it might be useful to others:

  • What are the benefits of clowning (for the clown and the audience)

Clowns thrive on connection. They offer an audacious quality of connection that disregards the 4th wall of kitchen sink theatre and reaches directly into the audiences eyes. Through this connection, clowns share everything they’re feeling, moment to moment, allowing audiences access to their own feelings in response.

Through fully inhabiting their reality, clowns invite the world around them to spend time without the socially appropriate masks they’ve learned to wear. Like toddlers, clowns feel what they feel intensely, but are likely to feel something else in a matter of seconds. Clowns and clowning can teach us not to be afraid of feeling what we feel and to find a lighter, more playful relationship with our emotions.

  • Why is it important to be able to laugh in the modern world?

You’ve GOT to laugh! No really! Mirthful shared laughter diffuses tension, draws us closer to each other and encourages empathy, joy, pleasure and fun; all the essential ingredients of a happy life. Being able to find the mirthful viewpoint is the closest thing there is to freedom in my book.

  • What do you love about clowning? Why do you want to pass the skill on?

I love clowning because it encourages people to explore being seen in their authenticity. This has been an incredibly important part of my own journey, my clown has really helped me learn to take my space in the world.

Through my teaching, I love watching the process of people finding the ground beneath their feet, finding their breath in their bellies and finding their moment to take off their masks and allow their weirdness, pleasure and vulnerability to be seen and celebrated. 

To me, all people are incredibly beautiful and to have the skills to be able to hold the space which allows people to see the beauty in each other and in themselves is an incredible honour.

  • What can new clowns expect from the class? What responses have you had from participants?

Introduction To Clowning is a weekend course I’ve been developing for the last 10 years. It draws on my 20 year history as a performer and director in circus, theatre and on the streets as well as bringing in aspects of my dramatherapy masters dissertation research; ’Clown-o-therapy.’ 

The weekend starts by gently leading the group into the state of clown through mindful movement, voice play, group games and self-reflection. Together, we dissolve the blocks to playfulness and build confidence to be seen. On the second day, we explore rhythm and discover how to use rhythm and connection to keep an audience laughing.

Introduction To Clowning serves as a foundation to all my other training. If you like what you experience, then you can come back for my summer schools or weekly courses. I’ve taught people from every walk of life, from plumbers to politicians, age 18-80, whoever’s called to do this work, I’ve got something for you!

Here’s some feedback from the last intro to clown weekend:

“I enjoyed it all. Nicely packed out with lots of space / room to experiment with new ideas, games, tools as well as reflections.”

“I will definitely take the mindset to consider yourself and the new level of comfort I feel with being vulnerable with me. Along with a renewed sense of freedom that allowing myself to play brought along.”

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: The Crunch

Holly On The Telly

In other news, I was recently invited to go on The Crunch, a magazine internet TV programme dedicated to all things Bristol. They were interested to hear about what I do with my days and they wanted me to teach them how to be clowns. All in the space of 4 minutes. 

I said yes and then immediately remembered that I'm terrified of being on the telly. The thought of something of me that I have very little control over, existing Out There forever, fills me with dread. After lengthy Facebook discussions on what I should wear and an extended crisis meeting with my inner cast (We all agreed that Healthy Me would handle it, with the help of my Inner Academic and my Playful Hostess.) I was ready. 

Sweating in the waiting room, watching the women I'd just been nervously chatting with, mutually calming each other down, now on the telly in the corner, I wondered whether I'd be sick live on air.

I heard my name being called. 

The living room sized studio had 2 fixed cameras, with no-one operating them, it was just the presenters and me. She repaired her make up, using a secret lipstick stowed under the coffee table, while he asked a few questions, letting me know he might be interested in the things I had to say. They agreed that he would lead on this. Deep breath, 3,2,1 rolling.

It was over in a flash. 

Watching it back, it seems alright. I said some things, did a little clown workshop, gave them the footage they wanted for their 'best of' montage. 

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: The Crunch

I am learning to be seen

You can see the Crunch TV interview here I'm on at around 1 hour 10 mins.

If you live in Bristol, pick up your free copy of The Spark Magazine from alternative shops and cafes.

You can find out about Joe Hoare's Laughter Club here.

There are still a few places on my autumn Introduction To Clowning workshops. Find out about them here.

Cannonballista in Bristol This Weekend!

Oct 17 2017

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Paul Blakemore

If you're in Bristol this Saturday night, you're in for a treat!  Liz Clarke will be bringing Cannonballista, her explosive new solo show, back to the place where we made it, the wonderfully quirky, original featured, ex-working men's club, The Brunswick Club! For one night only!!!

Here's Liz talking about the show in an interview with Theatre Bristol:

"Cannonballista is a show about grief, coping mechanisms and superhero alter egos! It brings together sheds, cannons and ridiculously high heels in a way that I’m pretty certain has never been seen before!

...The show is an unhinged celebration of our struggles and triumphs and the things we do to get us through. Meet Betty Bruiser - the ‘One woman husband and wife team’ She’s a human cannonballer and my alter ego."

Liz and I have been working on the show in many short bursts since January. It's been an extraordinarily deep, organic, nurturing process which you can read more about here

I'm really excited about seeing it back at The Brunswick Club, after it's premier in a proper theatre in Newport last month. The Brunswick Ballroom, where the show was made and where it will be performed on Saturday, has it's own distinctly wonky personality. It's clashing patterns and working mens nicotine stains have definitely crept their way into fabric of the show. 

Here's a little sneak preview of the carpet of The Brunswick Ballroom so you know what you're letting yourselves in for.

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Holly Stoppit

I'm really proud of what we've made, it's wild and tender, kitsch and raw and I do hope you can come and see it. 


Cannonballista plays at The Brunswick Club on 21st October 2017 at 8pm buy tickets here

For details of Liz's Super Hero Alter Ego Workshop, see Liz's blog.

You can read Liz's whole Theatre Bristol interview here.

Cliff Jumping For Beginners This Weekend!

Oct 13 2017

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Debbie Sabina

Wowsers, what an incredible week's training with the fools of Beyond The Ridiculous!

All 12 fools have been split down into their component parts and reassembled ready to play for you at The Wardrobe Theatre all weekend, starting tonight!

We don't know which parts of us will turn up or what they will do or say, but each fool now has a cast of stock characters they can drop into at any moment; there are inner guides, inner critics, inner children, pessimists, motivators, nihilists, anarchists, dancers, singers, storytellers and a whale called Clive. 

Will this new format give the players even more confidence to take even more risks with their improvisation?

Come and find out!

Cliff Jumping For Beginners 

Friday 13th, Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th October 

8pm  

Each night feature 4 different players 

£10 

Get tickets via The Wardrobe Theatre here

Find out more about Beyond The Ridiculous here

Read more about this weeks company training here

The Facebook event is here

Circus City Website is here

Cliff Jumping For Beginners Next Weekend!!!

Oct 07 2017

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Jenny Drew

Oh happy days! The fools of Beyond The Ridiculous are gathering for a week of intensive training leading up to three shows at The Wardrobe Theatre as part of Circus City festival (13th, 14th and 15th October).

It's such a pleasure to be back in the company of the most wonderful, brave and compassionate gang of misfits. We're gently easing our way back into the fools world. So far, we've been reacquainting ourselves with our unique improvisation form (fooling) and finding out where we're all at, after a year of not playing together. My, how we've all grown!

The next stage of training will be to explore a new version of fooling. Up until now, the fools have always walked onto stage with absolutely nothing, discovering stories, characters and play in the moment. This week's training is geared towards each player developing their own internal cast of stock characters (i.e their inner critics, inner cheerleaders, inner teenagers, inner gods, inner dorks etc). The material will still always be improvised, but their familiar, stock characters will each have a place on the stage and will be available for the players to drop into, if they so wish. 

This new version of the form comes from my own work in progress project, earlier this year (hey, you can read more about those discoveries here). Through having a known cast of characters on stage with me, I found a real sense of stability, which allowed me to take massive risks in my performance. I'm intrigued to find out if it does the same for the fools of Beyond The Ridiculous. 

Our 3-night mini fooling festival is called Cliff Jumping For Beginners. During the performances, we'll be using the developed version of the form to explore the theme of risk, asking ourselves and the audience; what does 'risk' mean to you? How does it show up in your life? Are you a daredevil cliff jumper, a reckless romantic, a sensible risk-measurer or a quivering wreck? How does your relationship with risk effect your life?

Come and jump off cliffs with us!

13th, 14th and 15th October
8pm 
The Wardrobe Theatre
Each night will be different
£10

Get tickets via The Wardrobe Theatre here

Find out more about Beyond The Ridiculous here

The Facebook event is here

Circus City Website is here




Cliff Jumping For Beginners

Oct 03 2017

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Jenny Drew

Artist Jenny Drew captured Beyond The Ridiculous host, Holly Stoppit negotiating with the audience during our last run. 

Fooling is a unique form of solo improvisation, where the performers respond to what's happening in the room as well as what's happening inside themselves. 

When you come to see the show, prepare to be part of the experience!

"REAL engaging theatre. We’re talking about what theatre sets out to do. The origins of theatre. Untranslated, original theatre." -Audience feedback

If you want your piece of the ridiculous pie, best book your tickets for our mini fooling festival, Cliff Jumping For Beginners now! We play on 13th,14th and 15th October at The Wardrobe Theatre at 8pm. 4 different performers each night. Part of Circus City.

Tickets here: http://thewardrobetheatre.com/live/cliff-jumping-beginners/

More about what we're up to here

Beyond The Ridiculous is back!

Sep 18 2017

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Adam Fung

A year ago, the fools of Beyond The Ridiculous made the difficult decision to take a break from public performances and scattered our ridiculous seeds to the far corners of the globe. Collectively, we’ve been performing, directing, teaching, touring, moving house, playing music, producing, making our own work, giving birth to a baby (only one fool did that), going straight, going wonkier, winning prizes, losing keys and having many, many birthdays (one each to be exact).

Meanwhile, Circus City were casting their beady eyes around, looking for Great Things to book for their festival. Somewhere at the bottom of a memory draw, they remembered dusty old us. “We liked those Beyond The Ridiculouses,” they said, “Lets get them out to play again!” So they beat us roughly with one of those massive carpet beaters and here we are! Pale and moth-eaten and gearing up to play.

For three nights only (October 13th, 14th and 15th) at The Wardrobe Theatre, Bristol, we will soar and flop and soar again, for your delight. Our night is called Cliff Jumping for Beginners and we’ll be performing solo improvisation, exploring the theme of RISK. Four different fools will play each night, so every night will be different.

We’ll be using a new technique I discovered with Franki Anderson during my Work in Progress project in the spring, hey you could read more about that here! With this technique, each fool will have a stock cast of characters to call on at any given moment. The material will still be improvised and new characters are bound to pop up during the performance (we couldn’t keep them away if we tried), but the theory is that the stock characters will give the performers a sense of stability which will in turn allow them to take more risks on stage. 

Come and discover with us!

Find out more about Beyond The Ridiculous here

The Facebook event is here

Circus City Website is here

Or get tickets via The Wardrobe Theatre here


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