Guest Blog: Dominique Fester on Fools Play

Apr 30 2021

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Dominique Fester

The following blog is written by Beyond The Ridiculous company member, Dominique Fester.

A Ship of Fools - Looking back on Fool’s Play 2021

At the beginning of March 2021 the fools of Beyond The Ridiculous forayed into delivering ‘Fool’s Play’. The course was designed to scoop up fools who had done Holly’s five day training and were hungry for more. What could the fools of Beyond the Ridiculous (Holly’s Professional Fooling Company) share from their own experiences with those relatively new to the fooling path? Our ambition was to deliver a series ‘led by experienced fools with a wealth of foolish knowledge’ (Feedback: Sandra Birnie). It was our second time delivering the course. The first (March 2020) resulting in an abrupt volte face when two weeks in, we were socked between the eyes with the first Lockdown. Instead of being up close and personal we found ourselves pulled together online, trying to make sense of it all. (You can read more about that here.)

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Chez and the online audience at The Wardrobe Theatre / Beyond The Ridiculous / The New Normal / Photo by Joe Rosser

This was different. We’d chosen to do it despite the restrictions, in the same way that we’d produced two shows since the pandemic began (Check out what happened at Voices of Lockdown Live and Unleashed in June 2020 and The New "Normal" in November 2020). Spurred by an urgent desire to reconnect with our fellow fools, and supported with pre-course training from Holly, each company member lovingly prepared a session based on their area of expertise. 

Between us we touched on; presence, somatics, physical theatre, voice, film and frame, and the ephemeral. The plan was that each week the facilitator was allocated a tech buddy, then flanked on all sides by the rest of the company, who stood ready to jump in and support if needed, otherwise they were free to play.

We had this! One final solo supervision with Holly, and high-five emojis were emojied.

As we ventured forth, (without Mama Stoppit for the first time) we held our breaths in anticipation…

Enter the participants. This much longed for group was made up of folk who’d all done a five day fooling course with Holly. Battle softened warriors if you will. They’d stepped boldly and bravely into our cyberspace offer, and now it was up to us to deliver what we were all famished for….meaningful connection.

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: screenshot of the Fools Play group embodying their wise fools

As we stepped into familiar territory though, tendrils of empathy and trust began to emerge, despite the screens. Wholehearted check-ins followed by a deepening into our bodies and selves. We sang our stories with mics turned off, and danced our bones; glimpsing others doing the same in their various rooms. In small groups and pair work we savoured the theme of the session until one by one the participants disappeared off into breakout rooms to witness each other in their play. Much later I would learn that the course was experienced as ‘a light delve into yourself in a fun and held space’ (Cat Murphy) and ‘a playful and carefully held space for self-expression’ (Emily Sly). Meanwhile….

“How are they doing in there?” I mused anxiously into the void when it was my turn to facilitate. (I was tapping into the part of me which loves to mollycoddle). Luckily Chez, my loyal technician for the evening, suggested we fool for each other as we waited. I was soon laughing at the hypervigilant part that played as the captain of a ship in peril on the seas, and didn’t trust was just... facilitating a session on Zoom.

Faces popped back on screen as everyone emerged from their break out rooms. People seemed bright eyed, bushy tailed and full of fizzy feedback on their experiences. Later we would learn that participants found the course ‘healing and heartening’ (Riss Obolensky)  and ‘A full and varied deck of playful investigation’ (Greg Champion.) As I basked in the participants genuine glow, more than once I reflected on my thankfulness for this practice, this art form, and how it allows people to shine from wherever they are, whatever they’re feeling.

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Beyond The Ridiculous members after their online show, Voices Of Lockdown

Perhaps I had been steering a ship for the evening after all? A ship that knew the highways and byways; how to navigate by the light of the moon, and how to pull into harbour should a storm approach. The practice had held us, as we had held each other within it. Facilitators, participants, Holly secretly still there, behind it all...alongside every individual contribution, large or small. And the ‘restriction’ of fooling through the screen? As one participant commented; it became “ Fuel for the fool fire’ (Riss Obolensky).

My heartfelt thanks to this ship of fools. I look forward to the next voyage. May she float again soon. And when she does, may we bless her, and all those who sail in her.

Dominique Fester has been teaching drama and performing for over twenty years. She specialises in delivering Lecoq-based Physical Theatre training in and around Bristol which you can find out more about here. Dominique’s work is rooted in her belief that the language of the body and its visual impact are as important as text and voice. She is currently training to become a Psychotherapeutic Counsellor at BCPC. She has been a company member of Beyond The Ridiculous for over five years

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