Timing, tension and surprise key to comedy



Mount Aspiring College pupils had a chance to flex their funny bones with circus performer Thomas Monckton last week.

The workshop was an introduction to physical theatre with a slant towards comedy.

‘‘It is basically introducing the kids to physical expression, so non-verbal performance,’’ Monckton said.

Physical comedy in theatre followed the comedy rules of timing, tension and surprise, ‘‘all those things that cause us to laugh’’.

‘‘It is applicable universally, and we are just applying that to physicality.’’

Monckton’s physical theatre replaced words with movement to convey meaning, and the workshop was an opportunity for pupils to learn how to feel comfortable working with their bodies on stage.

Building tension was illustrated by a simple exercise in which pupils were asked to clap after Monckton had clapped.

By varying the pause before he clapped the tension built in the room.

‘‘So the tension kept on going up and up, and when we finally clap it releases the tension, and it causes a little bit of laughter,’’ he said.

‘‘Surprise, tension, rhythm, these are all things that create laughter.’’

Originally from South Taranaki, Monckton has travelled the world with his highly regarded shows that are comic combinations of circus clown and physical theatre.

Now based in Helsinki, Finland, Monckton was one of four New Zealand expatriates who went through managed isolation and quarantine in order to take part in the festival.

Monckton performed his latest solo show The Artist to sold-out audiences on Saturday.