Focus on: Jamie Wood

Clown doctor Jamie Wood wants Fringe-goers to fall in love at his hippy hour of "playful experiential exploration"

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Jamie Wood
Published 03 Aug 2015

Fringe First-winner Jamie Wood begins his new performance wrapped in a silk kimono, inviting the audience to play chimes looped around his body. In the right order they'll play 'Imagine'. O No! is a blend of mysticism, live art and silliness that sums up Wood's attempts to reassess Yoko Ono, his parents' troubled marriage and love stories themselves in a magical hour of off-kilter psychedelia.

With golden messianic beard and locks, Wood's presence fills the stage. But his performance is a high-concept hour that relies on as much conceptual art theory as charisma. Wood quotes Yoko Ono: “I hate sculpture because there's so much beauty in the world. Why do you need to make something else?” His avant-garde (and Fringe-friendly) set relies on familiar poundshop props put to uses their makers never dreamt of – a yoga ball and a torch become a glowing solar eclipse, for example. The audience are invited to fall in love with the world through "playful experiential exploration" and avant garde art games of childlike intensity.

The idea for O No! came from John Lennon. Fresh from his bed-in for world peace, Lennon said: “Yoko and I are willing to be the world's clowns, if by doing it we do some good.” It's an ethos that's got a lot in common with Jamie Wood's day job as a Giggle Doctor – performers trained to work in a medical or therapeutic environment. As he explains, “When I started I'd just studied with Gaulier, the great French clown teacher. But once you're with a sick child and their family, suddenly you are the least important person in the room and you don't give a shit about all that. The thing you bring is space to be naughty, to listen, to laugh.”

O No! has a similar aim: "To open up a space for talking about love." The performance's emotional expansiveness reaches summer of '67 levels when he invites an audience member to talk about love with him, naked, inside a large sack. So what happens inside? Wood recalls that, “One guy said he'd been married 20-odd years. He cried, and afterwards he said, 'Thank you for reminding me how much I love my wife.'”

Of course, Yoko Ono's own love story ended in tragedy. But Wood's performance is suffused with a glow of optimism and hope: “I only knew sad love stories – how can you have the belief in what life can hold if you think they all end up shit in the end? But my partner and I have just had a baby girl and that makes you think about what stories you pass on.” At the performance's opening he promises the audience that they'll all fall in love with each other. Whether or not Fringe cynics open their hearts, his show's romance with life is one that can only end happily.

Your show in five words: Loving, playful, exciting, nuts, beautiful.

Your top tips for the Fringe: Stay open and talk to people, take risks and go to things you've got no idea what they'll be.

Your most memorable Edinburgh Fringe moment: When performing Beating McEnroe, there was a performance where I looked into the audience and saw a whole load of my heroes in the audience, Dr. Brown, Trygve Wakenshaw, Nina Conti, Daniel Kitson, Simon Munnery. It was terrifying and wonderful.

The performances you're most looking forward to: I'm looking forward to seeing what all the people above have created this year plus Clout and Remote Control and hopefully some crazy Russian visual theatre.