Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Anthony Livingspace- Street Performer

Anthony Livingspace turned his back on society 25 years ago and has been in its face ever since.His neck aches. Nobody seems to care.

Out of this frustrating void Tony pulls laughter.

He's adopted the junctions of two bars and a church on banked cobbles in the old part of Granada on the hill in the south of Spain.

His show is built on pain so Tony has to build up sorrow misfortune and woe in useable quantities to even consider going through the agony of comedy.

Tony's genius is that he provides industrial quantities of sorrow misfortune and woe and many other, equally sterling qualities by the use of a simple tool that is his lifestyle.

He's an anarchist, a comic anarchist whose laughter is drawn from those who recognise in his show and thus in his mind, and briefly theirs, that all this seriousness and convention and dignity and rigidity, is laughable.

He has a free apartment, his own pitch and nuns who lock up the church (with them inside for the night) in the middle of his show to play with.

He puts a cloth over his head and in Spanish pleads to be let back into the nunnery,
"It was only one movie",
"The people were only pretending",
"It wasn't real love."

He skips up to the church with soccer ball underarm and shouts repeatedly for Mary at the door, he waits loudly, asks if Jesus can come out to play soccer, then starts kicking his ball against the steps.

He's walked in the church clothed and out the church naked within seconds to thunderous applause.

He's been experimenting for years.  One of the last great street theatre purists. He can and does do shows inside, on stages, in theatres, but just for variety. He is the only performer I know of his quality who's married the street form rather than using it as a springboard.

Originally Australian and a dishwasher, Anthony confronted his own boredom in public places as a young man, and in this self induced state he has carved a small career consisting of his trousers. amp,mike, suit and a multitude of small ever changing props.

In small part, Pepe, and Lee Ross have been influences although in my mind Tony goes further. He takes Pepe's physical impro further and Lee Ross's improvisational commentary further still having codified it in a small sampling unit connected to an amp.

For those unaware Pepe was the king of Covant garden improvisational mischief for a while, legendary in the risks he took, physically and socially and comically before tragically succumbing to his alcoholism, while Lee Ross was a graduate of some NY theatre arts unit who spent time internationally on the street before taking three roles at once for cirque du soleil touring Asia before retiring to be a conceptionalist of sorts in LA.

However no-one else to my knowledge has spent time consistently getting obese men to take off their shirts in public and vamp.
Or eats a flower so wistfully.
Or created so many inspired original comic 'bits' in the increasingly template d and regulated world of street theatre.

His show is contrived madness dedicated to simply and briefly making people happy.

Figuratively, if you were to imagine the outskirts of society and from there walk a day and a half, then have on hand a very powerful set of binoculars, you may, in the distance make out what looks to be a putrid swamp.
Tony lives just on the other side of that but returns to do shows for the folk.

He has a rare full instinctive sense of comedy coupled with that second sense of where the crowd can be taken and innate timing, all counter balanced by a romantic disdain for success or safety.

Many years ago we shared a hotel room, a cheap room in a converted victorian house downtown Christchurch NZ.
Anthony confessed that he was actually painfully lonely but held a belief that somewhere out there was a woman who was perfect for him and that gave him strength.
It was pitch black and I let the moment hang before stiletto-etting his soft underbelly with my scorn.
“Do you have any idea of the amount of compromise that goes into a relationship?” I asked.
“This fairy tale you use to ward off weeping yourself to sleep, this article of faith of yours, you realize your unrealistic hope dooms you to a realistic hopelessness?”
There was a weighted silence and then the wounded retort.
“You know Martin, when I'm your age I'm going to be a lot more successful than you.”

I laughed. Yet twenty years passes and while Tony is still living month to month, in Australia now but still working Europe which is the better fit for him and having just returned from Japan from a post apocalypse Tokyo street theatre festival I concede that as a street performer he does now hold an advantage. He remains fearless and at heart still a practicing optimist .

Already an accomplished technical mime he bounced up to me once after years apart and excited confided.
“Hey Martin I've been studying a lot of this clown stuff, doing classes in Europe.”
“Really” I returned guardedly.
“Yep, did all these exercises, getting in touch with my inner child, that sort of thing.”
“What came of that?” I asked.
“Well what happened was I found my inner child...and raped him.. and got sentenced to 15 years in my inner prison.” he delivered with a deadpan expression but an evil grin in his eyes.

Anthony's beyond successful. He's an uncompromising public comedian and while it could hurt his feelings to be told this, he is indeed a clown of exceptional quality.

The next link might be external. It's stored on facebook but open to the public. I loathe facebook but this is an entire show staged on the street in Edinburgh and captures the energy and the glee Mr Livingspace creates.

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