Colette Plays the Fool at Pendennis Castle

English Heritage introduces its first female jester at Clash of Knights this week.

Colette Orler stretching her funny bones.

A new generation of English Heritage jesters will make their debuts this half term. Trained by English Heritage’s National Jester Peet ‘Peterkin’ Cooper, the new recruits include the historic organisation’s first female jester.

Swiss acrobat Colette Orler will flex her funny bones for the first time on 30 and 31 May at Clash of the Knights at Pendennis Castle in Falmouth.

Colette has a lifelong love of circus and contortion, and has trained and performed around the world. Joining English Heritage as jester 'Polly Glotti' her new acrobatic act takes inspiration from history’s great female fools.

Colette Orler stretching her funny bones.

Female jesters in history

While playing the fool is more traditionally carried out by men, there are some famous exceptions. Matilda Makejoy performed for the medieval courts of Kings Edward I and II, and jester Lucretia the Tumbler was an entertaining member of Queen Mary I’s Tudor court.

Like their male counterparts female fools combined physical comedy with wordplay and wit, and often specialised in saltatrix - the art of acrobatics, contortion, and dance.

Female performers also presented their skills at fairs and markets, where their performances were often combined with other areas of expertise. Women are thought to have played a central role in traditional medicine shows, combining the roles of ‘cunning woman’ herbalist, acrobatic dancer and saleswoman of remedies.

Colette Orler flexing her funny bones

See the fools in action

Colette, who has trained at Bristol’s acclaimed Circomedia, can’t wait to play the fool at Pendennis:

'I’ve been a contortionist for as long as I can remember, it was only a matter of time before my body-bending ways turned me into a professional fool. I’ve packed up my puns, readied my wit, and stretched out my funny bones – I hope Pendennis is ready for some pretty serious silliness.'

Colette, alongside her fellow jester-in-training Tom ‘the fool’ Fermor, has been put through her paces by Peet Cooper and movement specialist and co-director Vee Willson.

Following an intensive school for fools in the winter of 2017, Colette and Tom have devised new and original acts. This spring has seen their skills fine-tuned for full comedic effect ahead of Colette’s performance at Pendennis.

Tom will debut his fooling career at Beeston Castle in Cheshire over the Bank Holiday weekend

As well as historical high-jinx with the jesters, the Clash of the Knights event at Pendennis Castle in Falmouth will feature an all-action contest as four teams of knights battle for victory in a test of strength and skill.

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