By Devi Singh
After spending 24 years in Argentina, Edgar Groll returned to his roots. An Israeli-born clown, musician and street artist, he was initiated into the world of juggling when he was 17 in Argentina. He met a girl at a party and was fascinated by the way she handled three balls. “I saw her and I thought I want to do the same thing,” says Groll.
Today, the 34-year-old juggles atleast four balls at a time, has travelled the world as a professional clown and can cast a spell on his audience without a spoken word.
Groll wears no make-up. Staying natural helps him bring out his emotions better, he believes. “Make-up for a clown holds a traditional significance. There are various kinds of make-up to portray the authoritarian, the fool, the happy and the sad. But for me, an artificial layer on the face kills the performer in you,” he says.
He calls himself a poetic clown, one who does not use words to communicate his emotions. This is evident in his off-stage persona as well. His eyes speak and his face is full of expressions. “There have been times when I have been really sad, but that hasn’t hampered my performance,” he says.
Though he has been invited to India before, this was his first performance in Delhi on March 23, at Instituto Cervantes organised by the embassies of Argentina and Israel. The show was named “Balagan Retzini”, which means a serious mess in Hebrew.
But making people laugh that too in a solo performance is not easy. “There is a technique, but no technique to make people laugh.” His travels across the world have introduced him to varied experiences and reactions. “In China, people don’t applaud, they just gasp,” says Groll, as he animates those reactions, and laughs. “Indians are more emotional and not scared to show it. They encourage you a lot, which makes them a great audience.”
Solo performances give him freedom and fluidity, since he doesn’t go by a script, he says. At Cervantes, his performance gets more pronounced with the involvement of audience. As the applause grows louder, Groll’s act becomes better. His various acts included cycling two mini bikes, which he refered to as mother and sister in his Hispanic accent; riding a giraffe unicycle while juggling three fire torches; passing through a ring of fire; and playing the clarinet.
Armed with a stereo his stage could be a street, a mall or a hall. “There should be no walls dividing a performer from his audience. I want to break these walls,” says Groll. A crucial part of his act is the music. He uses a fast beat, catchy pre-recorded music which goes well with his acts. “The transition has to be smooth and that’s why I control the music myself with a remote,” he says. Music is an emotional tool for him. “I can never work without music. And I love my music to be fun, the sort of you can play musical chairs on,” he says.
While he takes his performances seriously, he is also aware that Coulrophobia could be real, especially for children. “I know a little girl, my three-year-old daughter’s friend, who has this phobia. She probably saw something terrible at a circus,” says Edgar. He advises parents to check for the age restrictions before going to a circus or a clown show. Children should not be taken to a sad or horror clown show. Other things to look out for are the costumes and make-up, as some children might find heavy clown make-up frightening.
Popular cinema has also influenced Groll and his colleagues. “We are inspired by Patch Adams and want to do humanitarian work like him. I have many colleagues doing this,” he says, speaking of “medicine clowns” who go to hospitals and cheer patients especially children. Part of philanthropic clown clubs, these performers travel to countries like Africa to meet terminally ill children.
Would he want to be a clown for the rest of his life? “I really don’t know but what I know is that people should be happy in whatever they do. They should continue their pursuits despite failures,” he says.