Everyone seems to be having anniversary celebrations these days.
Obviously the Queen did a fair bit of celebrating last year, but so many cultural icons appear to be able to make a pretty good living trading on the fact that they’re still alive and in the same job, or have gone back to an old job that they did 30 years ago.
Typing “anniversary tour” into Google gives results for Tina Turner, the Rolling Stones, Reef, The Hollies, and Eric Clapton, all on page one.
And that’s without mentioning all the bands cashing in on the fad for the “Insert name of classic album here Tour”, whereby a band – probably from the ’80s – play a residency at a venue and perform one album from their back catalogue each night, like pioneering, continuously re-staffed, new material-shy, cycling obsessed German techno boffins Kraftwerk did at the Tate Modern last month…
***Tenuous link coming up***
…and I’ve just been informed by my oldest friend, Ho, (talented artist, and designer of Startrek hike team t-shirts) that we also have a 30th anniversary coming up in just a few weeks time.
Any of you who have been following for a while, or who have trawled through my older posts, will know that back in my late teens I was interested in theatre, and that I, along with Ho and four other friends from school, wrote, produced, financed, and performed a comic mime show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Poster and tickets for Edinburgh show.
Well, soon after our triumphant return to Sussex in the summer of ’82, Dramatiks Mime Workshop disbanded, as various members were in the middle of studying “proper” plays by Chekhov and the like for A’ levels, before going off to university or drama school.
But, having failed to secure a council grant for the place I’d successfully gained at Guildford to study stage management, I’d had to get a job in Crowborough, and Ho wasn’t going off to pursue his theatrical career at Cardiff drama school until the autumn of ’83.
Some early examples of Ho’s artwork.
Between us, we’d done quite a lot of amateur theatre work, both on and backstage, in fact Ho had already won the best actor award at the East Sussex Drama Festival in 1981 for his performance of Samuel Beckett’s one man play, Krapp’s Last Tape.
So it was natural that we would continue to work on other projects, both individually and together, especially as we had many of the school’s facilities at our disposal (a result of our continuing status as locally famous theatrical types) and it wasn’t long before Ho came up with the idea of putting on a one man comic mime show.
Featuring Ho directing himself in all the onstage roles, and with me taking on production, lighting, sound, and stage management, The Very Nearly One Man Mime Show was born.
The show was split into two sections. Part one, Daydreams, was a series of comic sketches, whereas part two, Nightmares, was a darker, more poignant piece.
Both parts required masks to be made for the two main characters, something we had plenty of experience of, as the Edinburgh show used a number of them.
The masks were made by taking a mould of Ho’s face, using plaster of Paris and bandages, applied to his face – greased first to prevent sticking – and with cotton wool covering his eyes.
When the plaster has dried, the mould is carefully removed and filled with clay. After peeling the plaster off, a perfect clay replica of Ho’s head can be used as a template for modelling papier-maché facial features which can then be painted.
These were the two masks used in the show;
In Daydreams – (predating Bart Simpson) “The Cleaner”.
In Nightmares -“The Old Man”.
The beauty of mime, especially as far as cost is concerned, is the lack of equipment needed to put on a show. At least that’s the case with traditional mimes like Marcel Marceau.
Comic mime is not quite the same.
Rules are broken left, right, and centre.
Props are allowed.
Lighting and sound effects are allowed.
Vocal effects, and even speaking are tolerated in small doses, in the interests of comedy.
And we were going to use as many added extras as we could lay our hands on, to make what would be our swansong as a theatre group our most ambitious show yet…
Coming up – The performance, near disaster, triumph, and a long walk…