Monika Pagneux at the Soho Laundry

Thank you, Mark, for your article about Monika Pagneux, in the ‘Against the Canon’ TDPT Special Issue, and for so beautifully providing a description of the essence of her work. I am one of those many people who were deeply and profoundly affected by her teaching.

In the autumn of 1992, as a young movement coach at the Stratford Festival, Canada, I had the good fortune to study with Monika Pagneux at the Soho Laundry in London, as part of two intensive three-week courses that she co-taught with Rick Zoltowski. One three-hour class occurred each morning (Movement and Clown) and another three hour class occurred each evening (Movement, Rhythm & Performance). Each afternoon I would return to the garden flat where I was living for those three weeks, eat lunch, and in front of the warmth of a gas fire, spend the remainder of the afternoon recording into my notebook the exercises and explorations that we had worked on in class that morning, as well as on the previous evening.

My classmates included Rachel Weisz, Irina Brook, Hélène Patarot, and Greg Thompson, amongst many others.

My first impression:

Upon entering a studio I see an older woman, wearing a black tunic and trousers, sweeping the studio floor; I assume she is the custodian. Much to my surprise, this woman puts the broom aside, walks over to a group of us who have assembled, and introduces herself as Monika Pagneux. She asks if any of us know anything about Clown. You could hear a pin drop. Then she says, “good, let’s learn about it together.” That was the spirit in which she worked: with a genuine passion and curiosity that was grounded in extensive experience and masterful teaching.

Over those three weeks, Monika changed how I saw movement for actors; her work elicited simple, beautiful authenticity. Although I did a lot more training after those courses at the Soho Laundry, I continue to teach material that I learned from her all those years ago, and to be inspired by the spirit in which she taught.