Hijinx Theatre director Ben Pettit-Wade tells us more about The Flop, here Friday 22 September.

We stumbled across a fantastic story during our creative development process for a new show, from a bizarre chapter of French history, the ‘impotence trials’ of 17th Century France!

The Flop tells the story of the Marquis de Langey, obscenely rich, charming, and good looking, though perhaps none too bright, he was France’s most eligible bachelor at the time. He married Marie de Saint-Simon, but after four years of marriage there was still no baby.

Apparently with little ‘going on’ in the bedroom, Marie was convinced by her family to sue the Marquis for impotence, a condition which was illegal at the time. It was a decision that led to monumental and comical consequences for both parties with a public Trial by Impotence.

Primarily the title ‘The Flop’ refers to one of the most important elements of Clowning – to fail, recognise that failure and create laughter with it. So, the show became about failure and the story of the Marquis de Langey, who was taken to court for his failure to ‘get it up’.

When we dug deeper into the research for this show we quickly realised it would provide the perfect material for a clown show – with elements of vulnerability, hilarity and the potential for outrageous and extreme idiocy.

Producing the show in association with world renowned clowning supremos Spymonkey, has further enabled us to exploit the potential of the content, which we tested on audiences with a scratch performance earlier this year and can be seen in a trailer on our YouTube channel.

We are intentionally pushing the boundaries with this production. At Hijinx we produce work which always includes performers with a learning disability, who we train to be professional actors through our academies throughout Wales. One particular interest for us with The Flop is how an audience reacts to a person with Down Syndrome, for example, playing the clown on stage. Do they feel uncomfortable with this? Do they need permission to laugh? For us, a big part of the project has been trying to understand how we liberate the audience to laugh freely with us and our cast, which adds another layer to our story. Can an audience forget their inhibitions to laugh freely with and at everyone on the stage equally?

The cast is made up of three Hijinx actors with learning disabilities and three neuro-typical actors, all of whom are playing the role of an ‘idiot’ during the hilarious and slightly rude re-telling of this obscure part of French history with live music and big wigs.