Sunday, September 25, 2016

Ideal Presidential Debate 20!6

My ideal Presidential debate would involve Hillary suffering a spectacular overdrawn cerebral event, multiple fatal hemorrhages in a series of locations that still allow her equilibrium as she staggers round the stage and the world as we know it with her arms flapping and uttering in an inhuman tone what sounds like a demonic form of speaking in tongues. Donald, truly terrified for the first time in his life sprints off the stage, forgets the drop is three meters and fatally breaks his neck . Hillary's brain finally explodes for good and she collapses and to the worlds amazement spontaniously combusts. Both vice presidential candidates withdraw suffering debilitating psychotic fractures.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Squid Juggling and a drive by shooting.

My official Clown education began after getting permission from my probation officer  to attend clown school at the other end of the country.  Oh and the crime? Breaking and entering and theft of a fire extinguisher. I happened to be at a party and I happened to be bored and I happened to believe that the host of the party should be shot but not killed as a form of entertainment (which is the theme of this piece) so I broke into a nearby hall and stole the fire extinguisher went back to the party and blasted the host with foam because that was the minimum level of excitement I required and six months later that shit caught up with me and probation followed.

  I arrived and unrolled my WW1 officers sleeping-bag under the shelter of the Grafton bridge in a cemetery. Nearby seasoned tramps roared, fought and laughed but I kept my distance. I was just 20, sleeping in cemeteries was just a stage I was going through. Tomorrow was day one of Clown school.

I learnt to juggle. I was never attracted to juggling. The celebration of mastering objects flying through space seemed to me a bit of a trite concession. I could see it being therapeutic to certain personality types who used it to buttrice lifes random inputs by using short range focus. A kind of , 'I'm alright Jack' attitude given physical form. Some people curb panic attacks by breathing into a paper bag, others gaze at their shoes to short circuit overstimulation, some play with toy trains or assemble model airplanes and some, who want attention in theory but are uncomfortable with it in practice, juggle.

I always thought of it as a kind of symmetrical epilepsy practiced by closet trainspotters and a kind of slowly boiled frog of attention seeking behavior. People have suggested I'm overly critical. Fuck those people, those people are assholes.

Clown school, the one I attended and ones I’ve subsequently taught, are about extending permissions and letting pupils explore their own boundaries in clown character development. Alan Clay taught a street based clown format so out of the studio we got to explore clown perimeters in public.

My first clown character was called Vernon Vortex, he wore a red nose and a baby bonnet and sometimes a sandwich board on which he’d write cryptic witticisms in chalk. His threadbare backstory was that vortexes were kinda like absences of stuff and that it was his job to go round filling them up.

In terms of permissions I found a red nose was quite the anarchist passport. Downtown I could climb the outsides of buildings and peer into first floor offices unimpeded. Alan used to release 12 trainee clowns at once into a 4 block area downtown, I’d be climbing buildings, another would be walking backwards for block after block, another would be on her back on a traffic island with her legs in the air reading a book called ‘Electricity made simple’ and keening, another would be coaxing her pet ball of string down from a traffic light. Good times.

Vernon was my first talking clown, he evolved from his first show which was How to create a near death experience, Life…is a near death experience when you think about it. …I will begin by strangling myself.” to selling isolation chambers on stage by zipping himself into an adapted shoe holder while talking. “have you ever been in a place…and thought you’d quite like to be…in another place?” Vernon would also appear between bands at high risk nz rock and roll venues with a bible to talk about his difficulties in his relationship with God regarding Deuteronomy in relation to industrial accidents and bar brawls culminating in the phrase, “and so I killed him”

This clown murder of an invisible god after the tension created in any theological monologue was the relief the sodden masses needed. I appeared to rock.

But my  next clown Terrance the artistic amoeba was the squid specialist. Vernon vortex had a rationale, he dealt with vortexes. Terrance the artistic amoeba just was. Although Terrence the artistic amoeba’s  first line was always. “ my name is Terrance the artistic amoeba and my forte is artistic criticism.”

Terrance stick was squid heavy. I’d begin by introducing thawed squid and explaining that thy were just basically protoplasm with well developed eyeballs programmed to come to the surface whenever lights appeared in the sky. I’d let that hang and then state,  “and so I’m going to juggle them!”

Being a reactionary cynical juggler squid suggested itself and I used an overhand technique and could juggle squid for as long as the concept required as a clown statement needed, i.e. Yes I am a clown and yes I am juggling squid .

It was the intro into my statement about art and what art was. I’d promise, as a specialist in artistic criticism, a conclusive proof.

Which was, after juggling squid I would introduce a mystery art object, an object hidden in a paper bag at the top of a stick that was one half of a spear fishing unit. My purpose, as Terrance the artistic amoeba whose specialty was artistic criticism was to define art, by initially juggling squid. and then introduce a mystery art object with the ongoing motif that I would reveal it and artistically critique it.

The art object was a squid on a stick, whats more the stick was loaded with a propulsion unit being the back end of an elastic speargun and so after the reveal I’d state that the squid was an art object, valid because I’d made it valid, and that like all great art it needed to find it’s place in the community.

At this point I’d offer them the choice between the 4 story building on the left or the right and whatever their choice I could fling the squid over their heads and away as my shows climax.

So lets get to the drive by shooting and let me say it was justified and I have no remorse. Clown vengeance is a beautiful thing given clowns have to produce dignity in hidden corners from their deliberately low status lives.

Aucklands biggest indoor venue was called ‘mainstreet’ and held around 1500 punters. It was a dead dinosaur  being sold in a real estate deal and as a last ditch keep the lights deal the owner of a nearby performance cafe was given casting rights, Enter weirdness with people from outer suburbs  being subjected to thurs/fri /sat of young bent culture. So I took my squid flinging act indoors. Numbers on the first 2 days were so low that the whole affair marinated in it’s own non event corpse secretion but sat night sat about 300. The bouncers were the original staff, along with the  tickets sellers and the barstaff, and they were used to agro at the highest level.

I had been flushing my squid in the venues public toilets after the shows. No fuss. My squid flinging had to be deft, well aimed and the launches had to be aimed in a narrow spectrum avoiding an array of circular fans and the tables beneath. easy on empty nights but the sat when I stated I was going to fling a squid out from the stage one table of 6 in the middle at the back vacated defensively and the gods of comedy decreed that’s where my squid landed. I thought that was great and retrieved it and flushed it after my act. Shortly afterwards backstage I got a warning that a bouncer was angry and looking for me. ‘Everyone’s a critic.’ I thought.

30 minutes later I was accosted backstage by a livid bouncer who grabbed me in a neck pinch and dragged me to the toilets where it appeared my flushed squid had reappeared and shocked some punter who’d shat and then inspected his output to be shocked at some aquatic protoplasm with a well evolved singular eye staring back at him and had complained to an otherwise bored bouncer.

The bouncer, instead of simply flushing again came and got me and gave me a coat hanger and plastic bag and told me to get rid of it elsewhere. So I fished it out, rinsed it, put it in the bag. Put it and my other props in the car I came in and had a couple more quick drinks.

We piled into the car and I was still smarting. I told the driver to crawl past the front doors of the place as I loaded my squid-projecting apparatus in the back seat and wound down the window. Comedy Gods be praised, there he was, standing out on the pavement looking like a bald, neckless, undersized, Ork.. I ordered a U-turn and we circled round again. I only had one chance. I’d have to shoot out the window and aim between parked cars from a moving vehicle but I had the steely discipline of a veteran sniper and rage in my heart. The squid, that had once been on stage, then in the air then in a toilet, then shat on and then rinsed off was now set free again and shot between the parked cars and hit the bouncer flush in the side of the face as we laughed and sped off.
It was a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

'Table manners' A site specific clown show based in restaurants. Still relevant?

One thing about my creative modules I've noted its they don't seem to age.

Admittedly I do.

I'm wondering whether to re-produce an old piece of theatre I [and Daniel Pearson] created and shop it around festivals?

It was performed over 30 times, it works. The script has lain idle for close to twenty years.

I could see it being a precursor to a festival, a buzz creating preseason. Or a parrallel piece, set in various restaurants.

It requires minimal props, it's production is cheap. It's a 20 minute piece usually unnoticed for the first 5 or 10.

I wonder if I should try and shop it around?


Is a set piece duo mime show set in a public restaurant.
It was initially created for Perth City Councils annual summer program of inner city entertainment.
Using elements of invisible theatre, mime, pantomime and increasingly absurd character development, the piece develops from invisible theatre through to overt pantomime and essentially involves an excessively pedantic food critic and a waiter pushed too far.
The motivation for this work work was to produce an initially subtile piece of theatre that didn't impose itself theatrically on dining patrons but rather evolved in their midst. It was important also to be sensitive to our host restaurants prime function which is to provide quality atmosphere service and food. Our brief was obviously to add and enrich to rather than subvert the atmosphere .
I had researched restaurant pieces, mainly English and wanted to produce something that moved away from the accepted character farce and more in the direction of studied eccentricity while still employing basic theatrical structures.
I wanted to construct a piece that was self contained ,a performance that could be referred to by an audience while relieving them from the necessity  of direct engagement.
(The dreaded "Approaching Violinist" syndrome)
Evolving from the pretext of a regular interaction between two characters, a waiter and a food critic into studied absurdity the piece was constucted to allow audience members to spend at least some time unsure of the context of what they, at various stages, began watching. The performance itself becomes a topic of conversation.
The piece is in fact initially invisible before graduating via eccentricity into apparent theatre.
Its a twenty minute piece scripted to 100 cues.


It involves an evolving surreal interaction between a waiter and a food critic. It is a non verbal piece.  


Waiter/performer arrives pre-performance dressed in identical garb as other waiters. From kitchen enters and sets empty table.

Food critic arrives and is shown to his table.
[ Costume was tweed sports jacket with elbow patches, shirt and tie.]

Food critic takes out small pad and pen and places them on table.
Fastidiously surveys table, switches position of salt and pepper, vase whatever..
Glances slightly furtively around before surreptitiously extracting a retractable tape measure from his pocket under the table and quite subtly measuring the distance between the edge of the table and the ends of the knife and fork then writing those figures on the pad placed on his right and then using the end of the the tape pushing the ends of the knife and fork a set distance from the edge of the table then, self satisfied at his successful subterfuge he waits.

The waiter passes by and the food critic catches his attention with a raised hand and finger and mimes a menu, opening and closing his palms. The waiter nods and exits, returning with the menu and standing to the food critics right as he studies it.

The food critic points at a dish on the menu, the waiter brightens then remembers that item is not available and conveys that by mimed mumbling and hand movements, [hands palms down, one on top of the other then moved away from each other twice]

The food critic shrugs nonchalantly, studies the menu again and selects a second dish, the waiters reaction is repeated. The second option is not available.

The third selection is, the waiter exits with the menu.

The food critic after a short while [2 /3 mins] on his own realises there is no water on his table .
The waiter is hovering some distance away at the kitchen entrance.
The food critic raises his hand and finger and gets the waiters attention. Mouths the word ‘water’ while miming tipping a glass to his lips.

The waiter looks confused. The food critic repeats his actions.

The waiter, questioning, mouths the word ‘water’ and mimes breaststroke.
The food critic nods affirmatively and shortly afterwards the waiter arrives with water and pours it then departs.

Then follows at least 5 minutes of waiting. The water is sipped, the surroundings are gazed at, but eventually, slowly, the food critic begins to get drowsy, eventually succumbing he nods off sitting.

He remains sleeping for a minute or more before the waiter arrives with his meal and stands beside him, a little bewildered at the situation before clearing his throat [the only vocal sound produced in the performance]

The foot critic snaps awake abruptly, the waiter places the meal and begins to exit.

The foot critic immediately calls him back. The food critic is not satisfied by the aspect of the plate and mimes the turning of the plate. The waiter is surprised but does rotate the plate a couple of degrees and looks at the food critic for confirmation. The food critic is not yet happy and yet again the waiter rotates the plate. Satisfied the critic dismisses the waiter, looks at the meal fondly, then picks up knife and fork and puts first food into mouth. Stops, puts down cutlery and beckons waiter firmly over.

In answer to the waiters inquiring expression the critic places his palms above the meal and mouths, “It’s cold” He does this twice. The waiter, understanding but a little miffed takes the plate and returns to the kitchen with it.

one to two minutes pass

The food critic’s attention is elsewhere as the waiter re-enters the room, walking backwards through the tables, holding a  lit candle underneath the plate of food, moving it about under the plate in an attempt to heat the meal.

While other patrons might notice this strange behaviour the food critic does not and the waiter puts the plate down on the table and moves away quickly enough that the food critic does not have time to call him back to rearrange the ‘aspect’ of the plate before he is well away and heading back to the kitchen.

Sighing, the food critic attempts to move his plate in an anticlockwise [or clockwise--who cares?] fashion to find that the plate is indeed very hot.

[Also, because a candle has been used to this effect, the bottom edges of the plate are coated with soot.]

The food critic moves the plate in increments and between these applies his fingertips to his face in contemplative poses.
In doing so he streaks soot across his face very obviously to all but him.

The food critic then eats his main course with due intensity while making occasional notes.

After which the waiter returns, starts at the state of the food critics face but carries on regardless, an inquiring expression from the waiter is answered by a satisfied expression from the food critic who surrenders his plate and again mimes a menu while mouthing the word “Dessert”

The Waiter nods and removes the plate and goes into the kitchen.

The waiter emerges from the kitchen carrying a dessert menu written on a blackboard and does not bring it to the table but catches the food critics attention and holds the menu aloft at a distance of a couple of tables away or at the kitchen entrance.

The food critic squints at the blackboard then reaches into his jacket pocket and brings out a spectacle case which he opens to discover it empty. He pats various pockets fruitlessly then squints again. The waiter looks on expectantly.

The food critic signals that he cannot see the menu, he shows his empty glasses case and his attitude is apologetic yet persistently enquiring.

The waiter’s expression shows he has thought of a solution, he signals the food critic to wait a moment, rests the blackboard where it is and returns to the kitchen.

Returning moments later with a pair of binoculars on a serving platter which he crosses the restaurant with and presents to the food critic, who is momentarily puzzled but then quickly understands.

The waiter then returns to his blackboard and again raises it and the food critic applies the binoculars and studies the menu from across the room.

The food critic lowers the binoculars and mouths the words “Strawberry and Cream” which is one item on the menu. The waiter nods in understanding, mirrors “Strawberry and Cream” and quickly exits with the board to the kitchen.

[NOTE; The binoculars have been rigged to leaves large black circles around the eyes of the user so now the food critic has a face smeared with soot and additionally two large black circles round his eyes while being unaware of this.]

The food critic, oblivious to his condition and also any reaction from other patrons waits in anticipation of dessert.

The waiter re-enters with a large plate on which, placed in the middle is a solitary Strawberry.

The waiter places the plate and turns to go but the food critic stops him and looks at the plate and back at the waiter and mouths the word “Cream”

The waiter does not understand.

The food critic repeats the mouthing the word “Cream” while miming the milking of a cow, then pointing to his plate.

The waiter understands “Oh Cream!” he mouths and quickly exits.

Returning moments later with a pressure cream dispenser, leaning over the table and squirting the smallest dab of cream possible next to the solitary strawberry on the large plate. Turning to go he is stopped by the critic who mouths the word “More” while miming a big pile on top of the strawberry.

The waiter, growing finally frustrated, does as instructed and again turns to go but again is stopped and the ritual of “More” is reenacted.

The waiter then applies a very large blob of cream in the middle of the plate and turns to the food critic for confirmation that it finally is enough.

The food critic is satisfied and dismisses the waiter who walks away but then circles back and while the food critic is poised to attack his pile of cream with a strawberry buried in it it the waiter stealthily administers a final blob of cream from his dispenser from behind the food critic and on top of the food critics head. The waiter then exits.

So now the food critic, is eating cream, finding the strawberry ,cutting it up and using pieces it to shovel  cream and eating his absurd dessert with relish unaware that his face is streaked with soot, he has large black circles round his eyes and a medium blob of cream on top of his head in a public place.

Shortly afterwards the waiter passes and the food critic signals for the bill, the waiter indicates that the meal is on the house and the food critic smugly accepts this development. The waiter hovers, the food critic ostentatiously but clumsily shakes the waiters hand while transferring a tip and then saunters self satisfied from the premises unaware of the shocking state of himself.



This was performed in a variety of restaurants for both lunchtime and evening audiences.
Some, formica tabled, others upmarket.
Daniel Pearson [My waiter performer and performance partner for this show- I was the critic]
who is English and who I had met at the Halifax Street Performance Festival where he was in the original cast of the duo, ‘Men in Coats’ was/is a talented clown and mime/non vocal performer whose timing and characterisation lent much to the piece.

In one instance someone approached Daniel and told him quite seriously that they had never seen a waiter as disrespectful to a customer as he was.

and on another a patron approached and leaned over me and said.

“I have never seen anyone treat a waiter as rudely as you, You make me very angry, I want to hit you in the head. I have to go for a walk now.”

Strangely both of those people were German tourists. Just saying.....

It was interesting to see how long the theatre could be sustained as ‘invisible’ that is, not recognised as theatre.

Sometimes me falling asleep signalled that there was a contrived element to the situation but often there would be an envelope of time where onlookers might suspect but not have yet confirmed to themselves that what they were seeing was theatre.

The Binoculars were the tipping point.

Before that, even with having fallen asleep, having soot all over my face and my interaction with the waiter being entirely wordless, people still clung to an idea that it could be real.

It was a very interesting experiment. We received a standing ovation from one or two venues and all were applauded.

I have not included every little piece as there were a couple of  'bits' that established character and status that I omitted in this narrative, just as any new rendition would have embellishments that came with the performers inputs into the process.