For over twenty years, Jean Lambert-wild has lived with his clown. The clown is a paradoxical being who came out of Jean Lambert-wild and imposed himself on him (1).

Since then, Jean Lambert-wild’s work as a performer, in most of his shows, is influenced by this clownish spirit.

To begin with, the clown was silent and didn’t wear make-up. He would appear in extreme performance situations, called Calentures (2). Jean Lambert-wild’s ambition is to make these throughout his life, eventually creating a full repertoire of no less than 326 Calentures.

Before anything else, these were about a body in action that experiences its own limits, with a figurative intensity that is quick to make an impression.

In the Calentures, he crashes against a wall, drowns in a dustbin, dreams and hallucinates at the bottom of a swimming-pool, or survives, thanks to an intravenous drip, locked in a glass cage for 48h…

Later, he started wearing blue and white striped pyjamas: a costume straight out of his imagination and which is conveniently ambivalent. The clown is a waking dreamer, a sleepwalker, a convict, a concentration camp survivor, a comic book character, a modest child, or even some sort of conceptual being covered in the stripes of medieval infamy. The striped pyjamas are a very powerful poetic motif, understood by many: everyone sees in them a symbol or meaning, they are familiar, even intimate sometimes. The way the striped pyjamas are designed, their colour, give the clown an imposing iconographic dimension.

Jean Lambert-wild has a passion for comic books, and he conceived the clown like an illustrator would. Doing so, he meddles a bit further in the relationship between theatre and comics, which he has been nurturing since the start.

Then came the White and his signature. His appetence for magic, circus, burlesque cabaret, music hall, all take him closer to his white clown’s destiny. This strange character who appears in the Calentures, constantly fluctuating between tragedy and comedy, acts of madness and Stoic melancholy, is a strikingly modern white clown, a figure renewed by the poetry he releases and the energy he deploys. So he puts on white make up, invents for himself a signature for each of his new appearances and thus continues his metamorphosis.

Then came the Verb. When Jean Lambert-wild chose to play Lucky in Waiting for Godot, he knew that this monologue would free his clown’s language. The first time he talked, he did so with virtuosity and with a monologue that is reputedly impossible to perform. Once it came out of him, language wouldn’t stop. He started looking for other languages, other writings: after Lucky, he played Richard III, and soon he will become Don Juan, the troubadour squire of The Song of Roland, the happy Death in Frida Peg Leg, an enamoured, colour-sick clown in Coloris Vitalis… Being able to speak takes him closer to total commitment. This clown who speaks is surprising, enraged, fascinating, hilarious, frightening, delirious, sweeping away everything in his path.

Who doesn’t dream of such outbursts? His fury gives us pleasure because his excesses are the ones we keep quiet about.

When, like a cuckoo, he steps into other characters’ shoes, he paradoxically also affirms the existence of his clown, a fully-fledged being who is independent from any text, any canon, and who, unbeknownst to himself, plays the part of the Actor.

Thanks to this performative superimposition: the inclusion of the character inside the character, it is the essence of the White Clown that he finds anew: to be, rather than to perform; to live rather than to imitate.

This serial and recurring condition gives him unmatched modernity and freedom in the theatre world. He goes from text to text, from play to play and eventually creates a constellations of games and challenges that outlines a state of the world. Like a comic book character, we follow his adventures from episode to episode. The fact that the pyjamas-wearing clown appears in several shows means we understand how the unity of his artistic gesture goes beyond individual productions. He is part of a wider design.

He is full of paradoxes: he is both funny and tragic, melancholy and impatient, resolute and disillusioned, affected and  ill-mannered, mad and lucid, troubling and reassuring, belligerent and a poet, bad-tempered and considerate, naïve and ruthless. It is this humanity in movement that we find fascinating. For isn’t it the clown’s essence to always do and show, thought an unbridled imagination, what the shackles of decorum and social mechanisms order us to ignore and prohibit us from naming?

Catherine Lefeuvre


(1) ‘My clown was born at night. He sat on my chest, holding my sleeper’s prayers tightly between his thighs, which woke me up. In his eyes, I could see all the fear he could see in mine. He pushed his hand down inside my mouth. With it, he searched deep inside my throat. He tore my child-like laughter out of it. Silent yet screaming, my eyes widened by pain, without a movement of refusal, I let him go. Since, Furious, I track him closely. The 326 Calentures I have to go through are the trials that will allow me to find him and make peace with him.

(2) Calenture: a furious delirium that affects sailors when crossing tropical zones. It is characterised by hallucinations and an irresistible desire to throw oneself overboard.