Clowning as Human Rights Activism in Recent Devised Irish Theatre

Molly E. Ferguson


This article focuses on clown techniques in devised theatre pieces by Charlie O’Neill and Brian Fleming, claiming those strategies as an emergent category of human rights activism in Irish theatre. Fleming’s Trilogy (2011, 2012, 2014) and O’Neill’s Hurl (2003) and Dodgems (2008a) are influenced by clown as practiced by Barabbas, but they return to a more text-driven, issue-based theatre to advocate for human rights. In close-reading these theatre pieces, I examine the following clown techniques: physical theatre, audience participation, parody and reversals of power, and self-examination. I argue that clowning is a growing undercurrent in Irish theatre, advancing human rights speech that challenges neoliberal and conservative views on immigration, racism, poverty, and homosexual rights.

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