Clowning around in new show

17:00, May 27 2014
Ollie is a martian
FAMILY TIES: Barnie Duncan, left, is directing his nephew Ollie Cox in the one-man show Ollie Is A Martian.

Ollie Cox just wants to make people laugh.

But the 29-year-old from Grey Lynn has had to tackle some tough obstacles to get there.

"When I was 13 I went to high school and they had a special needs department. At the time I was pretty young and didn't think I had reading difficulties. I mean, I knew I had a problem but I didn't really want to acknowledge it.

"But these people in the class really helped me through that time, through school. I didn't have an avenue as far as like drama or anything," Cox says.

After a rejigging of school programmes, the special needs students were allowed to take on drama class, Cox says.

It kicked off his pursuit of an acting career, including three years at the Wellington Performing Arts Centre and two at Ecole Philippe Gaulier in France.


Founded by renowned "clown" Philippe Gaulier, the school is known for a slew of comic actors such as Emma Thompson and Sacha Baron Cohen.

"Philippe is probably one of the most famous clowns in France but that isn't all he teaches," Cox says.

"We did Shakespeare and mask workshops . . . But most people go there for the clown and character workshop, and buffoon. Buffoon is very big in Europe."

Cox was given a scholarship to stay on a second year.

"I just fell in love with clown and the French way."

Four years after moving to Auckland, Cox is starring in his first solo show Ollie Is A Martian, directed by his uncle and entertainer Barnie Duncan.

The story follows Ollie who lands on Earth and experiences human life for the first time.

"I feel an alien almost at times, in life," Cox says. "I think everybody can relate to that in some way."

Duncan says: "As his uncle and watching him grow up I can honestly say Ollie was a clown before he went to clown school. He's got a really awesome talent and a lovely way of making people smile. It's really innocent and comes from a really cool place."

Ollie Is A Martian runs June 3 till 7 at Basement Theatre. Go to for details.

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