Red Bastard
Eric Davis @ Gluttony – La Petite Grande
9:15pm, Thu 6 Mar 2014
So – I’m waiting outside The Piglet, chatting to the lovely woman running the Face Your Selfie exhibit, eagerly waiting to see Chris Wainhouse… but Gluttony is looking dead, with precious few punters in attendance. I check at the door, and Wainhouse has sold all of one ticket – mine – and, about ten minutes past the nominal start time, I’m told that the show is cancelled. I’ve already got a ticket in hand for later in the evening, so I quickly look for something nearby that was on The Shortlist to fill in the gap… a quick dash across the road led to the discovery that Nunopoly was also cancelled, so back to Gluttony I went: Red Bastard fit perfectly.
It was only after I’d hurriedly bought the ticket and scurried towards La Petite Grande that I thought about what a light audience might mean to Red Bastard – after all, the first time I saw him perform (when he was all but the poster-child for the 2010 Fringe), the audience were as important as the performer. When I tentatively stepped inside the tent, I discovered there were only about twenty people there waiting… my heart sank a little, and I began to wonder how this show could possibly work. The feeling that I could be in for an uncomfortable hour was only exacerbated when I discovered that most of those twenty people were either (a) drunk, (2) not native English speakers, or (iii) both.
Eric Davis’ alter ego strutted its bulbous way onstage (I noticed, for the first time, that he wears red FiveFingers) and started barking instructions at the audience. Initially, the performance panned out in a similar manner to my first Red Bastard experience: we exercised our voices (“FIVE… four… threetwoone”), we’re taught the Space! and Displace! and Suspend! exercises (there were no theatrical performers with prior experience this evening), and we’re psychologically prodded by Red Bastard.
And it’s the questions that make you think that provide the most reward from this performance; in creating a shared space (rather than an artist-over-here, audience-over-there regimen), Red Bastard gives us permission to be a bit more open… to give a bit more than we normally would. Indeed, one of the (handful of) latecomers accepted Red Bastard’s probing with a focused sincerity; when we were asked to come up with a phrase to address a personal pain-point, he proudly stated “My choice is mine” – and when Davis half-goaded him into committing to tell the target of that phrase, he pulled out his phone and rang his Dad. It was pretty uncomfortable watching one side of a deeply personal conversation take place (we essentially watched a blue-haired, shoeless young man receive an emotional battering from his father for five minutes), but once he’d reached some kind of resolution and hung up the place erupted in applause.
(Incidentally, my phrase was – rather petulantly in hindsight – “You only care about yourself.” Sigh.)
I didn’t think Red Bastard would work in a crowd of 20 – I was completely wrong. If anything, this performance was better because of the small audience; there was a humorous repeat of the first couple of minutes when a group turned up late, and the number of people for whom English was not their first language was also a cracking accent to the show. And whilst it didn’t feel as revolutionary as it did the first time, there were still some genuinely moving and inspiring moments: even the Red Bastard façade of Eric Davis melted away as he looked emotionally moved (and somewhat concerned) by the blue-haired guy’s phone call.
— Pete Muller (@festivalfreakAU) March 6, 2014