No Elephant Show: Yury Ruzhyev/Blini and a clown's journey to oneself
by DREW ROWSOME -
"I was always a clown," insists Yury Ruzhyev whose No Elephant Show is part of The Toronto Festival of Clowns. Ruzhyev already has Viva Cabaret and Divas in his repertoire as well as the dramatic play Komunka, but clowns move beyond acting and impersonating."Once you have the nose, it helps to ease the audience," he says. "I've been doing Divas to straight audiences most of the time and whenever I go into the audience as Marilyn or Tina, the men draw back. Now I have a little clown act before, and when I go into the audience, I have the nose. I'm not even shaved, I have the heels and the dress, I am Marilyn, and the men come forward. It's magic."
Ruzhyev's journey to becoming a clown. reflected in No Elephant Show's tagline "A clown's adventure to oneself," has been full of hard work. He travelled to a Manitoulin Island clown farm and then to Paris to study with the internationally renowned Philippe Gaulier. "I was clowning in heels and a dress still. And he's method. It's a two year course including Moliere and Shakespeare, I lasted two months. It was so different from what I love about clowning."
Ruzhyev then found what he was searching for, "When I went to Milan for their festival of clowns, I heard a term 'Clown Romantico,' it's about feelings, honestly, childishness. Clowns are dark. And clowns are important because they make us look at ourselves and see what is wrong with us. They hold a mirror in front of our faces and if we don't have that we're done. But the way you do it is important, it has to be fun and entertaining. It's a show."
And No Elephant Show's star, Blini, began to take shape in ways that reflect Ruzhyev's own development. "He's not allowing himself to be who he wants to be because of society, his parents, his family. his idea of what he should be. He's never happy. He doesn't create good art, he's a painter, because he's never been true to himself. His whole journey in this piece is to be able to find peace with yourself, to be who you are. He doesn't like painting, I found that out recently in rehearsal, he likes smashing things and to throw paint."
And Blini is not always a jolly clown, "He gets sad, and mad, and drinks like crazy. He falls in love with men and gets pregnant and runs away from the baby. He makes objects into the passion of his life and then becomes happy when he allows himself to be open and honest. It's fun, touchy and hilarious."
Having found a happy ending/beginning through clowning, Ruzhyev can't resist giving joy to Blini. "He only begins only painting in black because he has to be masculine. And he's uncomfortable, it's not working for him. The moment he breaks away from that he comes to life. I don't think he's gay, I don't think he cares. He just loves to be in a dress, he loves men." Ruzhyev breaks out into laughter, "How is that not a gay show?"