A Skelding Summary
The Street Theatre we commonly associate with Covent Garden has its antecedents in earlier history. The audience participation that you see in the piazza including balancing acts and chairs, is a reflection from theatrical activity in ancient Egypt and Greece.
Whereas in modern day circuses, the clown has taken centre stage in his own right, in the ancient world he would have the role of commenting on the actions of other serious characters in plays and even subjecting them to ridicule - attacking them or bombarding them with fruit and veg amongst other things.
Often the clown would be made up and his face covered in white chalk indicating that he was invisible. To enhance this effect to the main players in the drama - the clown would often if not always mime. The comedy sported such figures and may have been the origin of staged humour. Mocking another person was dangerous in everyday life so it must have been fun to see serious actors treated in this way. Now we have to wait for the critics in the papers.
From the early clown was born the Harlequin - one of the most familiar of comic figures. Harlequin too had a darker side, deliberately seeking to make fun at the expense of others. Similarly by the 1600s Pierrot, another type of clown, had developed a sad, melancholy character which influenced the style of Charlie Chaplin some 250 years later.
nsational aspect of street theatre can be seen in a series of dangerous tricks bordering on magic including fire throwing eating and sword swallowing not to mention walking on high wires.
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Histories of Things