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Sunday, June 26, 2011
Rumple, the possibly sacred fool.
Rumple, or Rumplestiltskin as he his referred to out of earshot of copyright enforcers, is an international clown. He's worked solo performing streets and street theatre festivals and arts festivals and all number of events, Glastonbury among others and recently enjoyed employ with cirque du soleil and is now not surprisingly, a free artist once more.
Oh how we laughed, we being clowns and street performers with more than a couple of decades experience both in this precarious form of business we've chosen and of Rumple himself, to hear that Cirque had grabbed his talent.
We laughed for the simple fact that Rumple cannot be tamed, never has been, never will and for Cirque to have the audacity [which is one of their qualities] to presume they could direct Rumple in the exacting way his two year contract implied automatically was to presume that some unlucky Cirque arts administrator, if lucky just one and if unlucky a handful, would suffer an aneurism.
I am not a religious man however if ever there was an argument for some spiritual hand that directs from within, giving birth to dreams and impulses that drive an individual brave enough to trust in them that argument would be personified in Rumple.
He is in his own motley way a sacred fool.
He speaks on and off stage in a falsetto. It used to be a cruel game among some to ply him with alcohol, the rumor being if you got him drunk enough he'd drop an octave. I have it on good authority that this is so. He was an innocent and innocents gets taken advantage of. I saw him once at Glastonbury coming in to pick up his check, supported by a person under each arm, unconscious with exhaustion, to sign for a check and have others change his flight to some east European festival and get him on the plane because those were the things he needed doing. Rumble would sit on somebodies floor and exclaim in his high little voice as his eyes roved in wonder.
“Blimey! You've got a nice house/caravan/big tent. I slept in a ditch last night.”
and it of course would be true because to my knowledge Rumple has never lied, his character shuns that level of sophistication.
However Rumple could go where others could not [in, I believe so many ways]. Before the Berlin wall fell Eastern Europe was steadfastly closed for visitors yet Rumple, in the jesters suit and false nose he wore far, far more often than not, would simply walk through checkpoints under armed guard explaining that he'd heard of this castle or that and wanted to go there because he liked castles and burly men would step aside and let him past to walk on towards wherever and I like to think they did it because on some level they recognised he was holy in that pure sense of childish purpose that radiates from him. [Believe me when I tell you I could think of many more cynical reasons and motivations but I choose not to. ]
Originally Australian, Rumple first arrived in Europe into London on a Qantas jet. It was a laughably short visit. He had worn his costume and false nose the entire 20+ hour trip. The wall between performance and backstage was to Rumple a sliding scale with a clown at each end.
Disembarking, he tottered through to Customs. British customs officers being, quite fittingly, the most dour people on the planet, the spectacle of some falsetto-ed Aussie with bells hanging from his jesters hat and long false nose served not to entertain them but further amplify their disgust with the human condition life had subjected them to.
Rumple no doubt would have been smiling and probably said something as uncomplicated as
The passport changed hands, an ordinary passport considering, most likely an ordinary photo.
They didn't care. They asked the important questions.
“Do you have any money?”
Rumple's eyes would have sparkled I suspect as he bent down and rustled in his carry-on before standing with a water polo sized bag made from strong cloth tied in a bundle all circular and bulging before exclaiming delightedly.
HAVE I GOT MONEY!
Then plonking down his package which inspection revealed contained multiples of hundreds of dollars in Australian coins. Useless, unexchangable coins that had no value whatsoever in Europe. Banks at the time, and probably still, only change notes.
The customs officers would have looked at him blankly [ while laughing uproariously inside their heads which is what I imagine the most spectacularly dour people do] before sending him to some small bare room with his luggage and within hours he was on his 20+ hour return trip to Australia.
Rumple contains no daunt, he cannot be daunted because like many things he simply refuses to conceive of daunts existence.
Close to 50 hours later Rumple, still with his coins and again a rich man returns to Sydney.
Within two weeks of circulating and telling his story he has paper money and a new airticket and had been persuaded to forgo his costume for the trip. Rumple's not stupid, he learns from experience like anyone else. It's simply that his larger picture is unique. So within short order he had gained entry into Europe and was headed in his fantastically impulsive meanderingly steadfast way towards castles he'd once seen pictures of, behind the iron curtain.
His dauntlessness is legendary among those relative few who know of him. He has, at multiple day festivals with multiple stages, performed shows that have lasted up to 26 hours. He has improvised non stop for more than a day. He would pick up a juggling ball and state.
“I am now going to throw this ball up into the air and catch it 317 times!”
and count each one along with the audience until he dropped one then start again. That's an easy 30 minutes right there but Rumple on many occasions would be given or grab or make a stage at a festival and go until he dropped.
His props were a unicycle, juggling stuff and various very obscure found objects or things he'd made.
He would do his show and people would pay him afterwards and in that way he was like us. [in that he was like anybody]
But he had almost complete disregard for the form he was using, it was more like a vehicle he jumped on and off of in pursuit of his character. There's a now stock piece. I first saw Peter Post use it, where you fail to balance an inflated ball on your finger and after repeated attempts enraged you throw or hit it away over the heads of your audience. The joke comes when invariably at some point shortly afterwards it gets thrown back into the circle and further humor is milked by taking out a knife and stabbing the ball and then throwing it again from the circle. Very very often the tattered ball is again returned, thrown back into the circle and the characters comic humiliation is complete.
I saw Rumple use this on a cobbled courtyard in Villach, Austria , he tried and tried to spin the ball on his finger then threw it away in mock anger and got a laugh and moved onto his next 'trick' for a good couple of minutes by which time his audience had quite forgotten about the ball but he hadn't when he stopped and in his falsetto shouted,
“Where's my ball?”
The audience looked behind itself to see but the ball had vanished, some kid had probably run off with it.
Rumple asked again,
“Where's my ball?”
The audience didn't know so Rumple discarded them, he just walked through them and away, leaving his props scattered in what used to be his stage surrounded with what used to be his audience as he wandered round the very old Town through courtyards and walled pathways asking anyone he met, mostly Austrians,
“Where's my ball?”
He gave up after a couple of hours but he never found his ball and others cleared and stashed his props where he had left them. We were all at the same hotel, it was no trouble.
Rumple put his hand to writing for a year or thereabouts. On performers.net, he would write long stream of consciousness screes. Genius begs comparison and Rumple is beyond that so no-one will ever be able to judge whether Rumples writing is profound. It will take some sort of singularity to finally make sense of him.
I do suspect he himself is profound although that could be seen as an article of faith on my part and as I've said I'm not a religious man.