Interview: Kiki Lovechild – Silent Clown

Gemma Hirst speaks to Kiki, a silent clown from London who is best known for his amazing cabaret act, as well as introducing the world to the phenomenon that is “Furlesque”.

So, Kiki, what can we expect from your new show?

The Weatherman is a modern clowning show that draws heavily on my passion for historical vaudeville. Using illusion, mime, physical comedy and some ancient vaudeville skills, it addresses the loneliness and frustration of a ‘grown up’ clown in the afterlife.

Where did you get the idea from?

A conversation with some friends, about the reality of jobs that seem exciting from the outside, but in reality are quite mundane. This led us to the thought of a man who controls the world’s weather. The show plays on people’s preconceptions about what to expect from dramatic jobs and dramatic events, whereas in reality the little things are what give joy to our lives.

Where did your love of mime and clowning come from?

Clowning has been part of my life for a long time, but I put this dream aside and got a job at a small local supermarket. I was dismissed from this job after agreeing to a customer’s request to play Freezer Isle Cricket with a garlic baguette.

Sounds like a barrel of laughs! But where did you go from there?

I turned to performing to earn an income. Many years of performing later I was introduced by a compere as a clown, which took me totally by surprise. It dawned on me that I had unwittingly become my childhood dream, by bit-by-bit becoming more clown-like in my performances. I was lucky enough to be taught by master of mime Desmond Jones a number of years ago, which opened my eyes to the wonders of silent communication. I count myself as the luckiest person I know that I’ve stumbled across my childhood dream by accident, and learnt so much more in the process.

What is it about cabaret that is so popular?

Cabaret is pure escapism, and it’s therefore no coincidence that it thrives in times of economic hardship. The inventiveness of the UK cabaret scene at the moment is astounding. I’m continually delighted by the fresh and surprising ideas that newcomers are bringing to our scene. This is at the heart of its appeal – every show you go to, you will see something you’ve never seen before.

Being that this show is linked to the weather, what is your favourite season or type of weather?

I’m definitely a winter man. Nothing beats wrapping up warm and feeling your nose freeze off as you wait for a train that’s delayed because of the “wrong type of snow”. As a child I would pretend to be the marshmallow man from Ghostbusters when wrapped in my winter coat. I still do this as an adult. Winter is awesome.

Are there other mime artists out there that you look up to?

I am a huge silent movie fan. Chaplin’s later work is great, but for me nothing beats the wonderful Buster Keaton – who taught me the power of a simple look – or the brilliant Fatty Arbuckle who taught audiences to find joy in adversity.

I understand your show is part of the Mimetic festival. Can you talk a bit about that?

The Mimetic Festival is a wonderful celebration of mime, cabaret and puppetry. Some of the most exciting artists in the UK are gathering for the event, and it’s an honour to perform alongside the movers and shakers of the performance world. It’s almost as if someone sat down and said “We need a festival that perfectly matches the interests of Kiki”.

And have you done anything like this before? For instance, have you put on a performance that you’ve created specifically for a festival in the past?

Yes, as well as countless Edinburgh Fringe Festivals, I’ve done Brighton Festival and a few others. My most anecdote-worthy tour was in Russia in 2006, where I accidentally ended up featuring on a regional TV chat show as a Professor of European Culture. I had sent out press releases in order to get media coverage for my show, but through a series of misunderstandings I actually ended up on this chat show. My interpreter and I battled through the hour and kept up the pretence as we only discovered the mistake when I was introduced, live on air.

Why should we see your show?

I hug audience members, so we’re all friends by the end. Everyone should have a clown friend.

Kiki Lovechild is performing The Weatherman at The Mimetic Festival, The Vaults, and Leake Street, London from November 20-21st.

For more info

Kiki’s Website