This was going to be a serious weekend. We had a film festival coming up in a month, and had to film, edit and produce a short film by then. So far our productivity had amounted to a storyboard and some wigs.
The location we were due to film was Whitstable, which meant a Friday night drive from London. On the way we had arranged to pick up Jake Eaton, who lived in Wimbledon, at 8pm.
Despite the fact we were an hour late arriving Jake was nowhere to be found when we knocked on the door of his terraced flat. We were perplexed, but gave him a call. Whereby it turned out Jake in fact hadn’t come home yet, and was currently halfway through his 6th pint at the local pub.
We drove round to pick him up before forcing him to pack his bag before our very eyes. Stumbling around the room as he was. I’d be surprised if he put anything useful in that bag. I don’t think he did.
But then we had a pleasant night time drive to arrive in Whitstable for 11pm. Our top priority was to get an early night so we could awake at the crack of dawn to start filming. We had one day to capture the content, and so I had personally scheduled the following day, hour by hour, from 9am.
Freddie had the nice idea of popping to his lovely local for a nightcap. To get everyone’s creative thoughts flowing. A delicious pint and some conversation. Just what we needed.
These pints were so refreshing that on the way back to the flat we picked up some more beers. And proceeded to get totally smashed.
We did some wrestling, climbed some scaffolding and went to bed at 4am. A pretty tame night, just as planned.
The following morning we woke up at 9am, realised we didn’t have half the props or makeup we needed for the film, and were in possession of some savage hangovers.
It wasn’t until 11.30, after the consumption of a few beers, that we were ready. A few scenes had been scrapped and a few alterations to the costumes made, but we were good to go.
The first scene involved the aftermath of a party. Which was lucky for us. Because we had a ready made aftermath in the flat already. It was incredible the amount of mess and destruction we had caused the night before. But it was ok. It was just set dressing.
Every can of beer and pizza box finished with over the next 24 hours would be classed as ‘set dressing’, and cast to the floor. It was the most liberating situation I have ever found myself in. Not only an excuse to trash a flat, but a condemnation for anyone that tries to clear it up.
But eventually we moved outside, with our lead actor Frederick Martin made to look the part. About to unravel before us was the creation of the greatest movie ever made – Clowns. But we weren’t to know this yet.
Freddie insisted on getting into character, and consequently started drinking the moment we left the house. It was great casting on our behalf, for he is a terrific actor, but he could be a bit of a diva. The rest of us started drinking the moment we left the house also. Because we wanted to.
And so the film making unfolded. Us wandering the streets of quiet, quaint Whitstable. Following a man dressed as a clown with a video camera and beers in our hands. Now Whitstable is a very artistic town. They’re used to a few oddities. But even so we got the most incredible amount of strange looks I have ever encountered. And believe me I’ve encountered a few. Especially when we entered a corner shop for some alcoholic refreshments. And the local pub for some more alcoholic refreshments.
But it was only going to get weirder. For this was the tame part of the film. We were about to shoot the grand climactic ending.
We came to the park. And here the plot was to change. I don’t want to spoil the film, but this is the moment one clowns becomes many.
By this point we were all utterly smashed. The only way to get clowned up was with the sole liquid we had – beer. Kim dripped beer in face paint and smeared it all over our faces.
Then we filmed ourselves clowning around. Swinging on the swings, jumping on the roundabout, going down the slide. Beers in our hands and smiles on our faces.
There was a big super swing thing that went round in a circle with chairs on chains. It was the downfall of many a clown. Jake flew off and lost his wig. Laver got bashed in the side. But it was Grant that experienced the worst catastrophe. He was wandering in tranquility, a smile of pure content on his face. Gently sipping his beer and pondering the complexities of life.
Yet in his blissful unawareness he slowly drifted into the realm of the chairs. The treacherous zone in which only the brave will tread. He was looking the wrong way.
I was on a chair. Travelling at high velocity. The disaster unfolding in my precognitive mind. Yet there was nothing I could do. Except wince as I pummelled into Grant’s back at 50 miles an hour. His beer flew from his grasp as he was lifted from the ground. This was bad. But just to make matters worse, his beer landed just feet in front of him. The ragdoll body of Grant Thornhill landed square on it, and splurged his own beer all over his face.
Any man can recover from a high velocity back hit. But to lose your beer as well? That could break the strongest of men.
Fortunately Grant is the strongest man I know.
After Grant’s ordeal we all jumped on the water pit a few times. We had a race. And the filming was done. But not the clowning around.
We headed back to the flat.
This is where the drinking games began. Some disgusting ring of fire. The rules were nasty. We had the box head. We had the cup hands. We had the blind Jack (the cruellest card to have ever been invented). On occasions people would look like this:
I’m not even sure who that is. We all lost a bit of humanity that night.
The addition of drinking game alcohol to this tinderbox of people led to the inevitable physical activity. Jake and Grant (who I have just remembered was christened with the name Dextro that day) had a hula hoop battle.
And then we ran out of booze. But no problem! We would go to the shop.
John had the bright idea of getting us all to play paper-scissors-stone. The loser would have to go to a shop with a chair cable tied to them. The second loser would have to go with their hands cable tied behind their back. Fortunately those two were Laver and Kim respectively. I thanked the gods it wasn’t me.
The shop was an interesting time. For us it had become normality. But for the occupants of the off licence a group of nine people dressed as clowns walking into an establishment was very far from normal. Especially when one had a chair tied to his back. Yet after a few strange looks I can honestly say they warmed to us. We spent at least an hour in there. And at least £100. We all thought it logical that in our drunken state a bottle of absinthe would be sensible. This shop is great. It’s The Offy. If you’re ever in Whitstable – go there.
Upon arrival home someone, probably John, came up with the great idea of passing the bottle of absinthe around us in a circle doing shots until the bottle was finished. We did this while singing ‘pass the absinthe to the left hand side’ to the tune of ‘Pass the Dutchie‘. I don’t know why.
By the end of this, we were all totally fucked.
We decided to do some wrestling. But not just any wrestling. Homemade British Bulldog. We cleared the room and set up an arena.
There were two teams of four. Each had to set one person against one opponent. The competitors stood at either end of the room. They had a hand on the wall. Then when the starter went, one had to charge at high speed to touch the opposite wall. If they made it they got a point. If the defender got them to the ground the defender got a point. Then the roles were reversed.
John and I had a particular rivalry. We had a few battles and a few disputes. John was beating me but I wouldn’t believe it. So I wanted a British Bulldog match to end all matches.
Me versus John. The final round.
Our team decided to make things serious. I’m not sure who came up with the idea but I’m pretty sure it was Jake and Grant. The idea was riling up. Riling up to the max. This involved shouting in my face whilst slapping and punching me. Transforming me from a human into an monstrous rage-filled fighting machine. And it worked. I got really fucking angry.
John and I stood at either end of the room. Staring darkly into each other’s eyes. Willing each other to fall. To fail. Our hearts were beating and our muscles tense.
Freddie began to count us down.
Pete returned from the bathroom. A beer in his hand. Carefree and aimless.
Wandering the flat.
Kim noticed it just as it happened. Pete was meandering into the danger zone.
But it was too late.
We charged at each other with all the speed and force we could muster. And met in the middle. Exactly where Pete was standing.
He flew across the room as though struck by an 18 tonne truck and lay there for 10 minutes. We carried on with the battle. Limbs and detritus flying everywhere. Until it all ended. We disputed who won. I think it was me.
Poor Pete still doesn’t know what happened that day.
The obvious progression after British Bulldog was Baby Sandpits. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Baby Sandpits. You should have done. But just in case you haven’t I’ll explain.
It’s like wrestling. But you do it on your knees. And you have your hands in your pockets. The objective is for one competitor to use his shoulders and general bodyweight to knock the opponent to the floor. If you go flat, use your hands, or stand on a foot you lose.
On these battles Jake and Grant decided to take the concept of ‘riling up’ that one step further. When preparing to battle they came at me double force. Obviously I had both my hands fixed in my pockets so there was absolutely no form of facial defense. They slapped the shit out of me. An assault of such extremity I have never experienced before or since. But it sure did rile me up good.
And I thank them for that.
After this I climbed in through the first floor window, we made a pyramid of clowns, and then we went to bed. The end of an interesting and productive day.
I work in the film industry myself. Yet I have never worked so long and so hard as I did that day.
Every man and woman involved in Clowns put a part of their soul into it. And every one of them now has something dark in them instead.