STURM UND SLOSH
Proud music of the storm!
Blast that careers so free, whistling across the prairies!
Strong hum of forest tree-tops! Wind of the mountains!
Personified dim shapes! you hidden orchestras!
You serenades of phantoms, with instruments alert,
Blending, with Nature’s rhythmus, all the tongues of nations.
It is now less than a week till our preliminary rehearsal period for My Perfect Mind begins. I have been busily conning lines and musing … and experimenting.
Recently I was reminded of a madcap specialty painting and decorating act I saw in a pantomime years ago at Nottingham’s Empire Theatre, long demolished. Ever since I saw it I have nurtured an ambition to perform in such an act, and in fact I did paint a very large Monet Thames sunset every night to music in my one-man show Defending Jeffrey in Leeds.
What I remember about the act in Nottingham was that the team of men (who only appeared in the ‘slosh’ sequence) were in boiler suits and came on very brisk and business-like and laid a tarpaulin on the stage floor, then with ladders and copious amounts of paint, which I imagine was a special water soluble concoction whipped up into a gooey foam-like consistency, set about decorating the set. The big laughs came from classic ladder business and I still recall one man turning pink from head to toe as paint was accidently poured on him from a great height, only to be covered in green the moment he had recovered.
It occurred to me that a version of this pantomimic routine could be brought excitingly into the realm of tragedy and might even find its place in the storm scene in Lear.
Then the week before last I witnessed a less inspired form of slosh, executed with less precision and indeed less art, at a private viewing of ‘A Bigger Splash’ at Tate Modern – lots of action painting on film, often using the face and body as a surface.
The following film is an attempt to join up these unconnected dots, both the banal and the beguiling, precious shards of memory and exploratory visions for the show. It is not part of our Lear project as such but an exercise in lateral thinking or ‘imaginary puissance’, an experiment that might be defined as Tate Modern meets Nottingham Empire meets the Bard’s ‘unworthy scaffold’.
|Photos by Dora Petherbridge