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Angels Can Fly, a Modern Clown User Guide Paperback – May 1, 2005
The Amazon Book Review
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From the Back Cover
Here is the review from Mask - the Journal of Drama Victoria, Australia, 2009 by Christina Kyriakou
"Angels Can Fly comes with a warning, 'Clown exercises are not for everybody.' Author Alan Clay is quick to explain that in order to engage in the 'experiences' within the text one must be prepared to 'let go of the self'. In truth Angels can fly is not simply a textbook filled with activities from cover to end. As Clay explains, 'You may see it as a novel on the human condition, a clown textbook, a philosophical treatise, or a memoir or oral history.' (p.11). He encourages readers to take from the text what they need and to 'make the text your own'.
Motivated by the belief that clown is an art form to be found in 'every culture on the planet' Clay has created a text that outlines the growth of the modern clown by blending practice with theory. His text is divided into 50 chapters, each beginning with an explanation of the particular theme whether this be, 'Bliss', 'Breath', 'Laughter' or 'Faith'. In fact, from a quick scan of such titles you could be forgiven for thinking that this is a self-help book - you would not be too wrong:
It is the blend of philosophy with instruction that makes this text unique in its approach to the clown art form. Each chapter includes exercises (which increase in complexity as the text progresses) and additional coaching tips which define the activity ad explain the learning process at work. Within each chapter Clay has imbedded an anecdote from notable clown practitioners, including Clay himself. These insights into the clown world are fascinating and if nothing else, reveal how this art form transcends boundaries of class and culture. As Clay highlights his own artistic journey since leaving Clown School in Sweden in 1977, the reader is privileged to be privy to his experiences such as having an audience with the Dalai lama in a Tibetan Children's Village in 1995.By the sacrifice of releasing the self, we gain the ability to see the forest rather than the trees, because we get in the way of ourselves. You have to let go of yourself, so you can be part of the world that the people around us are creating. (p.209)
Interweaving through the exercises and anecdotes are fictional short stories introducing characters such as Sugar, TC, Madona, Easy and Jasper. Readers can follow the adventures of these clowns and through their antics, can learn about the nature of clowning.
Angels Can Fly is Alan Clay's fourth book. A clearly experienced practitioner, Clay offers a through exploration of the clown art form for those who are willing to 'surrender' themselves to all it has to offer."
About the Author
Born in 1954 in Wanganui, Alan Clay grew up in Auckland, New Zealand. He studied clown in Sweden in 1977 and has taught and performed extensively in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
For the past fourteen years Alan has lived in Sydney, Australia, where he has run Playspace Studio, a physical theatre training centre which gained interanational recognition for a uniquely irreverent Australian approach to clown.
Angels Can Fly is Alan's fourth book. His first novel Moontan, was published in 1994; his second, Dance Sisters, in 1998; and his third, Believers in Love, in 2001.
Top customer reviews
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My reading style was to move around between the stories of the street performances, chapter topics, exercises and anecdotes. I personally found this to be very beneficial.
I found all of the stories of the clowns and street performances very easy to become engaged with. The characters were well-written, developed and easy to empathize with.
The coaching tips that Mr. Clay shares are not solely "clown-specific" but I found easy to apply to a number of situations in life, regardless of a person's job, age or economic situation. For example, Chapter 38's exercise topic is a falling circle. Briefly, those involved form a circle and sequentially take turns each standing in the center of the circle and falling, allowing those in the circle around them to catch them. The lesson, as Mr. Clay describes, is this:
"We almost never surrender ourselves to others in our lives, so the release of allowing it, is often a very nice feeling."
I think a great number of us could claim this to be true in our lives in many areas.
The anecdotes found in each chapter are similar in that they are certainly not only applicable to clowns. Some of these stories are quite incredible, most hilarious, but also serve as great lessons for life.
Really enjoyed this book and looking forward to my next Alan Clay read.
Whilst there are instructional parts of this book, I found the way that Alan Clay wove them all together with a mixture of fiction to be an easy and fun learning process. This read more like a book that you didn’t want to put down, and before you even realized it, you were learning all about clowning through the characters and their misadventures. Each performer in this story is struggling with their own issues and learning from their peers as they watch on from the sidelines or engage in conversation.
I think all of their struggles would be relatable on some level or another to anyone who does this type of street performing, and though I don’t myself, I just really enjoyed this world and the characters in it. It isn’t really something I ever thought much about before, but next time I see a street performer I will surely think of Chaos and Madona, Dancer or Hannibal.
As well as the fictional characters, we are also given anecdotes from people in this chosen profession. I found them to be very interesting, and I enjoyed learning about their individual journeys. Amelia’s journey in Ibiza was one that particularly resonated with me.
In general, I think the philosophies presented in this book on everything from breathing to yoga to mental thought processes would not only be useful in clowning, but also in all aspects of life.
A unique look into the world of what it takes to be a successful clown performer can be found throughout the pages of ANGELS CAN FLY, A MODERN CLOWN USER GUIDE. Don’t let the title mislead you for this is not a general text book on techniques required to be a clown. Instead, it takes an up close and personal look into ten different clowns as they share their own exclusive lives as performers.
I was skeptical at what I could take away from this book not having any background or experience with the behind the scenes daily life of a clown. I was literally blown away by all the fascinating information this one book contained. Through the personal stories, anecdote’s, and exercises I felt as though I walked away from this book with a new appreciation for an art form that I never even considered existed.
What makes this book such a successful reading experience is the author himself is trained to be a clown and runs a training Centre in Australia. I feel by him being a recognized professional clown that it adds substance by ensuring the information that is contained throughout the pages are from a creditable source.
Alan Clay is an author who I admire and greatly respect. Through his books I have discovered an author who I feel is a literary genius. His writing style is so fresh and fulfilling that I am convinced that whatever he were to publish will quickly become a best seller. Authors such as this are a rare commodity to find, for they enrich the world each time their pen touches the paper.