Paulina Lenoir is a Swiss-Mexican clown, theatre maker, and designer based in London. She is the founder of Fool’s Moon theatre, which has regular shows at Soho Theatre. She’s performed in various shows at the Fringe, but brings her first solo show ‘Puella Eterna’ to the Fringe in 2024. We spoke to Paulina about the show, the exhaustive variety of influences and inspirations that have gone into its creation, and her unusual hope for August.

Can you tell us about ‘Puella Eterna?’

Puella Eterna is a surrealist poet on a quest to answer life’s most existential questions in haute couture. She is a delusional diva on a mission to perform her most epic poem to date: the whole of LIFE in under an hour from conception to death and beyond.

For those unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe your comedy style and approach to performance?

My comedy style is playing dress up and pretending to be a prima ballerina from an abstract foreign interpretive dance company. I think I perform so I can make costumes and pretend to be a 1920’s movie star like Greta Garbo in a new Pina Bausch piece.

 What were your inspirations behind the character of Puella Eterna? There’s obviously a wealth of in terms of performance, literature, cinema, and fashion in there.

Puella Eterna was born from an existential crisis. During this crisis I became fascinated by professional mourners and the performance of grief and perhaps consequently began studying flamenco. In this time I discovered Puella, a poet in perpetual mourning for her life with a penchant for interpretive dance.

For inspiration I looked at a lot of iconic women across fashion, poetry, performance art, literature, and cinema. One of which was the fashion critic Diane Pernet who is always dressed as if she’s going to a funeral in a Leonora Carrington painting – all in black with extremely tall hair, a long veil, and sunglasses. She inspired my first costume for Puella.

I also turned to poets like Edith Sitwell and Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven (the mother of Dada) for their distinct and eccentric presence and style. I then dug into ancient texts and discovered Enheduanna who is the first recorded author and poet in history as well as a high-priestess and princess.

In film, Fellini has been one of my biggest references, especially his film Juliet of the Spirits. I love the fantastical worlds that he builds through his use of costume, set and lighting as well as the slightly odd rhythm and timing in the performances.

Who are your heroes, the people who inspired you to get into comedy and performance?

My first hero is Pina Bausch. I discovered videos of her directing rehearsals in the library at Central Saint Martins when I was studying design and she was the first person to make me want to quit product design to become a performer (sorry Dad). But the person who inspired me to become a clown was Carlo Jacucci, it is through him that I saw it was possible to do something beautiful and incredibly stupid and hilarious at the same time and that was very exciting. Afterwards I encountered Lucy Hopkins who mixed magic, witchcraft, ritual, and clowning in a way I had never experienced before. I recently got to work with her on the show and we came up with some very intriguing additions – no spoilers! Come see…

‘Puella Eterna,’ is your debut solo Edinburgh show. What are your hopes and expectations for the month?

My hope is to answer this question: ‘What comes first, the chicken or the egg?’

You’ve performed at the Fringe on numerous shows. What for you are the best and worst things about your Fringe experience?

One of the best things has been performing at the Blundagardens. Lucy Hopkins and Bob Slayer created an incredible space for artists where we have all felt truly free to experiment and be wild. Highlights have been getting half naked on a double decker bus on a 1m x 1m stage and shouting at people to stop looking at me with Lachlan Werner and Laurie Luxe.

Although this is an obvious one the worst thing about the Fringe is how financially inaccessible it’s become for artists and the pressure this creates.

Beside ‘Puella Eterna’, can we expect to see you performing elsewhere during August?

I will probably be doing some guest spots at cabaret and comedy shows throughout the month – exact shows TBC. Also I might do some guest appearances in friends’ shows here and there (i.e. ‘All the Fraudulent Horse Girls‘), keep your eyes open, I could be anywhere at anytime…

Are there any other acts at the Fringe that you would recommend audiences see?

Freddie Hayes, Ella Evans, Jens Radda, Anna Marie Simonsen & Marie Kallevik Straume, Claire Woolner, John Norris, Lorna Rose Treen, and Trygve Wakenshaw (who is on just before me at Assembly Roxy Downstairs) and all the performers with BIGHEAD Comedy (Rosalie Minnit, Sarah Roberts, and Bebe Cave).

Puella Eterna‘ is at Assembly Roxy – Downstairs from Wed 31 to Sun 25 Aug 2024 (except Mon 12 and Mon 19)