Red Bastard [FringeTIX]
Red Bastard @ Umbrella Revolution
10:10pm, Tue 16 Feb 2010
It’s not until I’ve been spruiked with TalkFringe flyers whilst in the queue for Red Bastard that I realised that this is a buoffon act… that little line in the précis – “His target: …you” – is easy to skip over.
Alrighty then, I ponder – massive audience participation is expected. What to do – front of house, or back? I’m early in the queue, so the house is mine for the choosing… I opt for front, second row table, and wind up sharing it with the friendly & gorgeous Amanda and her beau.
But not for long.
Red Bastard takes to the stage, strutting like a bulbous chicken. His absurd appearance should be familiar enough – he’s almost as much a poster-child for the Fringe as the astronauts – and he roams the stage, eyeing up the audience, whilst uttering nonsense. Suddenly he strikes a pose, arms outstretched – “Space!” he yells, and there’s one or two in the audience that recognise the call and pose likewise. He grins at them, licking his lips, before turning to the rest of us with derision and explaining how to “make space”. The next lesson is “Displace!”, sending the audience scurrying from to another nearby chair, frantic bumps causing many embarrassed giggles. And then we start warming our voices up. Gently, then louder, then screaming. And if there’s one thing I can do on cue, it’s Be Loud – as the Red Bastard found out when he singled me out. The audience’s laughter and applause felt good :)
He’s warming us up, of course, because we are the real stars of the show; Red Bastard is merely a facilitator, a mirror. He poses awkward questions of the audience, then dances around them, opening them up. Whether it be purely conversational (quizzing people on their dreams and ambitions, and what impedes their progress in achieving those goals) or physical (goading members of the audience into feeling around his bulbous butt for money hidden therein), he’s always challenging the audience, making them think.
There’s the occasional rant to himself – an inexplicable treatise on shaving, and a massive missive on Strut & Fret’s immensely profitable hegemony over The Garden’s acts (the Circus Trick Tease folks cheer him on). But this isn’t a comedy show, nor is it theatre… it’s almost meta-theatre, a deconstruction of the performer / audience relationship.
Having said that, I also found it deeply thoughtful and oddly inspirational. It’s more like a self-help seminar wrapped in abuse. And some of his queries stick with me still – What is the dirtiest thing I’ve ever said? How do I displace my instincts and intentions? And I can’t exactly say it’s a “good show” – as the complicit agreement between the crowd and Red Bastard infers, this show is what the audience makes of it. And as he leads us outside at the end of the show, he’s introducing us to the rest of our lives; the show lives on outside the Revolution.
I believe him. What a bastard.