In this clip we see a number of the protagonists from ‘In the Bosom of Roy‘ (Show #1 in the Dash Dash Dash series) demonstrating their readiness for service in a succession of what will be challenging but quite irresolvable situations.
An Introduction and the scripts of the six Dash shows can be found in the Archive list to your right.
A post about ‘Dash Dash Dash’, a series of shows I wrote and directed in 2010
Further to the material on the releasing of liquids in the previous post I am appending here a short technical monograph. Blood in the performing arts is always the wrong colour. It’s never dark enough. The benchmark for film blood used to be a concoction known as Kensington Gore. (This is a pun: Kensington Gore is the name of a number of connected streets that run around the Royal Albert Hall in Kensington, adjacent to Hyde Park on its south side.)
I am indebted to tvtropes and Everything2 for locating an original recipe: “… this is a name for fake blood, especially the sticky, edible sort in old British horror films. Everything2 gives the recipe as: • 2 cups of corn syrup (for viscosity and color) • 1 cup of water (for balancing viscosity) • 10 table spoons of corn (maize) flour (for making the blood less translucent) • 10 tea spoons red food coloring (for color) • 10 drops blue food coloring (for color) • A few drops concentrated mint (for taste – optional) The blood is sticky, thick and bright red (crimson in fact). The original Kensington Gore was a specific brand of proprietary stage blood manufactured by retired pharmacist John Tynegate in the ’60s and ’70s. It can be seen in a lot of old horror films, especially the Hammer Horror series.”
While the ingredients above are fairly standard, it’s all in the mix. The old school Gore had a letter box hue that was far too bright and light. The recipe does stress viscosity, however – a crucial but entirely controllable consideration. This is where the corn syrup (treacle is easier to get in the UK) comes in. The value of corn flour is debatable – it can make the mix irreversibly lumpy. Translucency can be countered with careful and cautious administration of food colouring. In film, it should be noted, the blood can be refreshed between takes. In live performance one is looking for an effect that does not dissipate as time passes.
In the Dash Dash Dash array five out of the six shows featured gratuitous bloodshed: • In the Bosom of Roy: when Angela spits it, possibly consumptively, in Alex’s face, twice. • The Flutters: when Grace returns from murdering the man who had been cutting to Roy in his place of work it emerges that she has shagged the culprit and then cut his cock off. She carries the detached penis in a neat, penis-sized package and her chest is smeared with blood. • The Fastness: Dan has returned, thanks to breakthroughs in time travel technology, from Golgotha, where he was able to film the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, in colour, using a small camera concealed in his chest cavity. His companions, Ann, Tod and Pat, wearing appropriate surgical scrubs, cut into his upper body to retrieve the device, in the course of which Dan inadvertently emits plumes of blood from, we imagine, severed arteries and other vascular components. His resourceful team members are drenched. • Gulch: Betty, Hector, Frank and Trudy leave the house and return several times, as if there were assignments that had to be completed. With the exception of Hector, all are bloodstained on their return. When Betty re-enters, her face and arms glisten with dark gore. The high window, its sills snowed up, silently seeps blood that drips to the table below, bathing the pearl-handled pistols. • Sleet: no blood is shed in Sleet. • Gush: Roy, beneath a bucket of blood, is dowsed. Gina, searching for biscuits, is copiously blued. Dean, wishing to make cupcakes, is enfloured (not a liquid but producing a pleasing halo effect when backlit). Roy, beaten with sticks, stamped upon and having his testicles bitten off, is yellowed from above. Nina, seeking to restrain the reddened, maddened and yellowed Roy, is, while grappling with him, blackened, also from above.
We have, therefore, five sets of requirements: • the blood that is spat must be non-toxic and thinnish but not too thin or else, on the face, it goes pink and translucent within a matter of seconds. • the blood that adheres to the skin must not run from its original site of placement. If it runs it will mottle. It must be particularly sticky and is daubed rather than wiped on. • the blood that spurts from the body must be thicker than that which is spat but not so thick that it blocks the washing-up liquid bottles from which it is squirted or so thin that it soaks within seconds into the fabric of the scrub leaving a stain that is pale and half-hearted. • the blood that bleeds from the window passes through pipes then soaks into salt. It needs to be thick but must not clog. • the blood that drops from the sky, as with the red and the yellow and the black, must, as it falls, form cords in the air, hitting the deck with a splat and splashing the walls as it utterly masks the features of those underneath.
All these bloods can be made on a table with buckets and bowls, stirrers and spoons.
Leonardo DiCaprio plays Paris, Friar Laurence and Lady Capulet. CYCLE I MUSIC: The 20th Century Fox anthem. This is effectively LEO’s signature anthem as it will be used throughout at this point to link each cycle to the next. LEO Good evening, my name is Leonardo DiCaprio. Call me Leo. Some of you may have seen me in ‘The Beach’. Call me Lenny. I was in a great movie called ‘Titanic’. About a boat? Very sad. But it’s great to be here. Call me Leonardo. That’s what I’m called. Right now I’m involved in a terrifically powerful love story. I hope you like it. Here comes Paris, a Count in distress. His love was extinguished before it even took aflame. LEO PLAYS PARIS: PARIS My page lies under yond yew-trees prone His ear to the chill and hollow ground press’d Lest those approach who’d find me fond in this, My mission to bestrew the grave of she Who groundless makes my love and bids me drift In seas of obsequy no tide can shift. WHISTLE OFF What cursed foot wanders this way to-night, When stern phantasmal shades do all affright? PARIS HIDES ENTER ROMEO HE FACES THE GRAVE AND ADDRESSES IT IN ANGER ROMEO Thou detestable maw, thou womb of death, Gorged with the dearest morsel of the earth, Thus I enforce thy rotten jaws to open, And, in despite, I’ll cram thee with more food! HE OPENS THE TOMB PARIS This is that banish’d haughty Montague, That murder’d my love’s cousin, with which grief, It is supposed, the fair creature died; And here is come to do some villanous shame To the dead bodies: I will apprehend him. PARIS COMES FORWARD Stop thy unhallow’d toil, vile Montague! Can vengeance be pursued further than death? Condemned villain, I do apprehend thee: Obey, and go with me; for thou must die. ROMEO I must indeed; and therefore came I hither. Good gentle youth, tempt not a desperate man; Put not another sin upon my head, By urging me to fury: O, be gone! PARIS I do defy thy conjurations, And apprehend thee for a felon here. ROMEO Wilt thou provoke me? Then have at thee, boy! THEY FIGHT WITH KNIVES PARIS O, I am slain! HE FALLS If thou be merciful, Open the tomb, lay me with Juliet. HE DIES. ROMEO In faith, I will. Let me peruse this face. Mercutio’s kinsman, noble County Paris! I’ll bury thee in a triumphant grave; A grave? O no! a lantern, slaughter’d youth, For here lies Juliet, and her beauty makes This vault a feasting presence full of light. Death, lie thou there, by a dead man interr’d. HE LAYS PARIS ON THE TOMB (NOT FOR LONG – LEO WILL SOON BE NEEDED TO PLAY FRIAR LAURENCE) ROMEO THEN TURNS TO JULIET’S BODY ROMEO O my love! my wife! Death, that hath suck’d the honey of thy breath, Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty: Thou art not conquer’d; beauty’s ensign yet Is crimson in thy lips and in thy cheeks, And death’s pale flag is not advanced there. Ah, dear Juliet, Why art thou yet so fair? shall I believe That unsubstantial death is amorous, And that the lean abhorred monster keeps Thee here in dark to be his paramour? For fear of that, I still will stay with thee; And never from this palace of dim night Depart again: here, here will I remain With worms that are thy chamber-maids; O, here Will I set up my everlasting rest, And shake the yoke of inauspicious stars From this world-wearied flesh. Eyes, look your last! Arms, take your last embrace! and, lips, O you The doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss A dateless bargain to engrossing death! Come, bitter conduct, come, unsavoury guide! Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on The dashing rocks thy sea-sick weary bark! Here’s to my love! HE DRINKS THE POISON O true apothecary! Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die. HE DIES ENTER FRIAR LAURENCE, PLAYED BY LEO F LAURENCE Romeo! HE ADVANCES Alack, alack, what blood is this, which stains The stony entrance of this sepulchre? What mean these masterless and gory swords To lie discolour’d by this place of peace? HE NEARS THE TOMB AND SEES ROMEO’S BODY Romeo! O, pale! Who else? What, Paris too? And steep’d in blood? Ah, what an unkind hour Is guilty of this lamentable chance! The lady stirs. JULIET WAKES JULIET O comfortable friar! where is my lord? I do remember well where I should be, And there I am. Where is my Romeo? F LAURENCE Lady, come from that nest Of death, contagion, and unnatural sleep: Come, come away. Thy husband in thy bosom there lies dead; And Paris too. Come, go, good Juliet, I dare no longer stay. JULIET Go, get thee hence, for I will not away. EXIT FRIAR LAURENCE What’s here? a cup, closed in my true love’s hand? Poison, I see, hath been his timeless end: O churl! drunk all, and left no friendly drop To help me after? I will kiss thy lips; Haply some poison yet doth hang on them, To make die with a restorative. KISSES HIM Thy lips are warm. SHE SEES ROMEO’S DAGGER AND SNATCHES IT UP O happy dagger! This is thy sheath; SHE STABS HERSELF there rust, and let me die. SHE DIES ENTER LEO PLAYING LADY CAPULET LADY CAPULET The people in the street cry Romeo, Some Juliet, and some Paris; and all run, With open outcry toward our monument. SEES THE STACK OF BODIES ROUND THE TOMB O heavens! Look how our daughter bleeds! This dagger hath mista’en – for, lo, his house Is empty on the back of Montague, And it mis-sheathed in my daughter’s bosom! O me! this sight of death is as a bell, That warns my old age to a sepulchre. Never was a story of more woe Than this of Juliet and her Romeo. EXIT LADY CAPULET MUSIC: CD ‘In Memoriam’ Track 1: March from Funeral Music for Queen Mary (Purcell) AFTER A FEW SAD MOMENTS ROMEO STIRS ROMEO ‘Tis dark! My bones are chill, my eyes…my eyes Are closed now open, is this the life That lies beyond life…the grave…is this Poor paradise its vaults come down to dust? HE PEERS AROUND HIM Juliet! JULIET STIRS JULIET Romeo! Was this but a dream, thy leached And bloodless frame convulsed, thy spittle dried On cheeks that gaped from brittle teeth no longer set on love but bitten bitter through? See you now! Are you heart-cease or heart’s ease? ROMEO Juliet! Love will live again, young hearts will soar, What is meant in heaven is now earthbound evermore JULIET O gentle Romeo! All that was lost is now regain’d Our vows have drawn us back from death unstain’d MUSIC: CD ‘Discovery’ Daft Punk Track 11: Veridis Quo ROMEO AND JULIET MOVE SLOWLY TOWARDS EACH OTHER, CLASP HANDS AND WALK STRAIGHT DOWNSTAGE PARIS STIRS, GROANS AND SLOWLY STANDS UP PARIS My wound is healed, my flesh refused, the blade That leaped from Romeo’s sheath was never used MUSIC: CD ‘Gatecrasher 10 – This Time It’s Digital’ Vol 2 Track 1: ‘Do You Hear Me’ (Indiana) ROMEO, JULIET AND PARIS, THEIR DIFFERENCES FORGOTTEN, DANCE HAPPILY FOR A WHILE.
CYCLE II THE DANCE MUSIC FADES AND IS REPLACED BY LEO’S MUSIC: The 20th Century Fox anthem JULIET MOVES TO THE TOMB, SMILES RADIANTLY THEN GRACEFULLY TAKES UP HER ORIGINAL ‘DEAD’ POSITION. ROMEO MOVES TO THE SIDE PRIOR TO HIS NEXT ENTRANCE. PARIS REVERTS TO LEO AND MOVES DOWN. LEO Good evening, my name is Leonardo DiCaprio. Call me Leo. Call me up sometime. People never do. They think I won’t answer. They think I’m unobtainable. I’m so pleased to be here tonight. We live in strange times. We need love in these times. And we need to believe in its power. Here’s a story you’ll like. About a couple of young hotheads. One of them was called Paris. LEO PLAYS PARIS PARIS There’s a boy that does my garden, sometimes I take him with me to watch my back, right now his Ear is to the ground in case who should come along But someone and me with things to do. I must put flowers down on the grave Of one who nearly was my wife A REFEREE’S WHISTLE IS BLOWN LOUDLY Now what? Dead of night, citizens tucked up In comes some rambler looking for a ruck ENTER ROMEO (MUSIC: Romeo’s anthem: CD ‘Handel Coronation Anthems’ Track 1: ‘Zadok the Priest’) HE FACES THE GRAVE AND ADDRESSES IT IN ANGER. HE IS SPIED UPON BY PARIS. ROMEO This pit fits but I spit on it. The earth Has swallowed up everything that made The world go round so now I’ll just get off I’ll get off the farce of it into the ditch of it PARIS A Monty! A naughty bastard Monty, The one that stuck the steel in my love’s Cousin causing her to melt away, now He slithers in doubtless wishing to muck The corpses up as he fishes through them COMES FORWARD Stop right there in your blooded tracks, scummish Monty cute! You wouldn’t let her lie, would you? The time is come for me to trim your nails ROMEO Stick it up, space invading waster, all I need is a push and you’re very much gone THEY FIGHT WITH KNIVES MUSIC: CD ‘Kerrang, Best of 2003’ Track 4: ‘Pure Hatred’ (Chimaira) PARIS You got me! I’m down and out. ROMEO That’s the big issue, upstart. PARIS Romeo – before I kick off, lie me next To Juliet. ROMEO Why? PARIS I loved her so and in her heart I like to think she had a soft spot too. ROMEO But not for you, Montagony. Still, I’m not against a dead’un – try your luck. PARIS DIES. ROMEO LOWERS HIM ONTO THE TOMB. Nice enough but not nice enough – A nicety, I know, but Juliet is a beacon now And does not need old flames to make her light. ROMEO THEN TURNS TO JULIET’S BODY O my darling girl! You’re still warm, your cheeks give to My touch but there’s not a thought now, not a breath, No sigh as you roll in your sheet, no murmur from the caverns of your sleep. Perhaps death draws you down And dances lightly with you in his unlit halls. But where’s The fun in that? Juliet, I never wear a hat but my heart’s Too heavy to move – my life is smashed, the light is gone, The bulbs have fractured in the frost. Let me crawl where You have flown, I’ll die at my own cost. HE TAKES POISON AND DIES. ENTER FRIAR LAURENCE PLAYED BY LEO F LAURENCE Anybody in? What’s all this? The floor’s awash with gore! And these blades, they’re hardly Swiss They have one purpose and that is more Than prising stones from horses’ hooves! HE NEARS THE TOMB AND SEES THE BODIES Romeo! Paris! One run through, the other etched from gut to garter, both pale, drawn and hung wretched in their quarters. JULIET MOVES But the lady stirs… JULIET WAKES JULIET O comfortable friar! where is my lord? I do remember well where I should be, And there I am. Where is my Romeo? F LAURENCE Juliet, step away from that tomb. Your husband Is dead. Paris is dead. Let me guide you from this place Of slaughter before it takes us all. JULIET Go! Get away! Don’t touch me! EXIT FRIAR LAURENCE What’s here? a cup, closed in my true love’s hand? Poison, I see, hath been his timeless end: O churl! drunk all, and left no friendly drop To help me after? I will kiss thy lips; Haply some poison yet doth hang on them, To make die with a restorative. KISSES HIM Thy lips are warm. SHE SEES ROMEO’S DAGGER Romeo! I’ll drive you in me! Sink you to my heart and see you! SHE PLUNGES THE DAGGER INTO HER CHEST AND DIES. MUSIC: CD ‘In Memoriam’ Track 9: ‘Funeral March’ (Chopin) ENTER LADY CAPULET LADY CAPULET Romeo! Juliet! Paris! They all call it! They run through the streets! Wild-eyed! SHE SEES THE BODIES Oh God! My daughter bleeds! She carries Romeo To her heart, his sheath is shot, his eyes rolled up. Beside him Paris, gaping from his slit. Never was a tale of more regret Than Romeo and his Juliet. MUSIC: CD ‘In Memoriam’ Track 1: March from Funeral Music for Queen Mary (Purcell) EXIT LADY CAPULET. AFTER A FEW SAD MOMENTS ROMEO STIRS MUSIC: SOMETHING FROM CD OF DISNEY ‘ANGELIC CHORUSES’. ROMEO Is this paradise or is it hell? Did I fall? Have I flown? SEES JULIET’S BODY There’s Juliet, still prone, the blood’s gone from her cheek JULIET STIRS And wets her breast but even as I speak She moves as if a dream had taken her Or is it just some spectre puppeting His ghoulish team? JULIET WAKES UP JULIET Romeo! I saw ten thousand angels and each one cried ‘Juliet! Go back! There is none here who can love you On our side – go back, nobody deserves to die!’ ROMEO Juliet! Love will live again, young hearts will soar, What is meant in heaven is now earthbound evermore JULIET O gentle Romeo! We live to love and love undoes The world and all the laws. We fall into our bodies once again Yet wingëd now we soar above all pain. MUSIC: CD ‘Discovery’ Daft Punk Track 11: Veridis Quo ROMEO AND JULIET MOVE SLOWLY TOWARDS EACH OTHER, CLASP HANDS AND WALK STRAIGHT DOWNSTAGE PARIS STIRS, GROANS AND SLOWLY STANDS UP PARIS Is death a lie? Or life a perjury? My gash is whole yet there’s no surgery. MUSIC: CD ‘Gatecrasher 10 – This Time It’s Digital’ Vol 2 Track 1: ‘Do You Hear Me’ (Indiana) ROMEO, JULIET AND PARIS, THEIR DIFFERENCES FORGOTTEN, DANCE HAPPILY FOR A WHILE.
CYCLE III THE DANCE MUSIC FADES AND IS REPLACED BY LEO’S MUSIC: The 20th Century Fox anthem JULIET MOVES TO THE TOMB, SMILES RADIANTLY THEN GRACEFULLY TAKES UP HER ORIGINAL ‘DEAD’ POSITION AS ROMEO MOVES TO THE SIDE PRIOR TO HIS NEXT ENTRANCE AND PARIS REVERTS TO LEO AND MOVES DOWN LEO Hi. I’m Leo. A lot of you have seen my stuff and I guess it’s fair to say that many of you think of me as somehow so near yet so far. If only you knew. The greater the glamour the more it enwraps us. Is that too high-flown? What I mean is: those on the mountain-top can be just as lonely. Like Steve McQueen used to say: altitude is altitude, it doesn’t have to be high. Do you like stories? Here’s one coming along right now… LEO PLAYS PARIS PARIS I need to put some flowers down. My boy will keep an ear out. A REFEREE’S WHISTLE IS BLOWN LOUDLY Aye aye! PARIS HIDES. ROMEO ENTERS MUSIC: Romeo’s anthem: CD ‘Handel Coronation Anthems’ Track 1: ‘Zadok the Priest’ HE FACES THE GRAVE AND ADDRESSES IT IN ANGER. HE IS SPIED UPON BY PARIS. ROMEO All that’s left is rage. The grave breaks me. PARIS Here’s my chance to cut the ague from a wandering Mont And heal the ancient wound with blood. COMES FORWARD Freeze, bandigeek and vastopont! Trouble me with your blade or else Shorten your life without preamble! ROMEO Prick me now, gay Paree! I have a shaft for your boulevard. THEY FIGHT WITH KNIVES MUSIC: CD ‘Kerrang, Best of 2003’ Track 4: ‘Pure Hatred’ (Chimaira) PARIS You got me! So young, so short, My life is taken all in sport. ROMEO Have you finished? PARIS I beg you, let me lie with Juliet Place me on the plinth of darkness ROMEO I grant what you will as is my wont. PARIS DIES. ROMEO LOWERS HIM ONTO THE TOMB. HE THEN TURNS TO JULIET’S BODY, BREAKS DOWN AND WEEPS Juliet! The links have sheared, I’m dropping Like a hawk whose prey is finity. Will you know my name when I see you? Do you look back? Let me hold you, Juliet, let me hold you! My ship is run its race, I shall go down. HE TAKES POISON AND DIES JULIET STIRS JULIET Romeo? Romeo! Where is my lord? SHE SEES ROMEO’S BODY AND SCREAMS Poison hath been his timeless end: I will kiss thy lips; Haply some drop yet doth hang on them, I am black, I am blank. KISSES HIM Thy lips are warm. SHE SEES ROMEO’S DAGGER Nothing! Nothing! Nothing! SHE PLUNGES THE DAGGER INTO HER CHEST AND DIES. MUSIC: CD ‘In Memoriam’ Track 9: ‘Funeral March’ (Chopin) ENTER LADY CAPULET SHE SEES THE BODIES IMMEDIATELY LADY CAPULET Oh God! My daughter bleeds! Never was a sadder tale Than this sweet girl and two pale males. MUSIC: CD ‘In Memoriam’ Track 1: March from Funeral Music for Queen Mary (Purcell) EXIT LADY CAPULET. AFTER A FEW SAD MOMENTS ROMEO STIRS MUSIC: SOMETHING FROM CD OF DISNEY ‘ANGELIC CHORUSES’. ROMEO I’m back! It’s like I never went! Death is just a ring road! JULIET STIRS And Juliet! Juliet! My only love awakes! JULIET Oh, Romeo! I missed you so! I thought I’d never get away! It’s so dark down there! ROMEO Were you scared, my sweet? JULIET Not a lot – I heard you call And thought ‘Why not?’ MUSIC: CD ‘Discovery’ Daft Punk Track 11: Veridis Quo ROMEO AND JULIET MOVE SLOWLY TOWARDS EACH OTHER, CLASP HANDS AND WALK STRAIGHT DOWNSTAGE PARIS STIRS, GROANS AND SLOWLY STANDS UP JULIET Look at Paris! He’s back too! PARIS I must have nodded off. JULIET Do you know Romeo? PARIS We’ve knocked around together. ROMEO Nice to see you again. MUSIC: CD ‘Gatecrasher 10 – This Time It’s Digital’ Vol 2 Track 1: ‘Do You Hear Me’ (Indiana) ROMEO, JULIET AND PARIS, THEIR DIFFERENCES FORGOTTEN, DANCE HAPPILY FOR A WHILE.
CYCLE IV THE DANCE MUSIC FADES AND IS REPLACED BY LEO’S MUSIC: The 20th Century Fox anthem JULIET MOVES TO THE TOMB, SMILES RADIANTLY THEN GRACEFULLY TAKES UP HER ORIGINAL ‘DEAD’ POSITION AS ROMEO MOVES TO THE SIDE PRIOR TO HIS NEXT ENTRANCE AND PARIS REVERTS TO LEO AND MOVES DOWN. LEO Leo here. ROMEO BEARS DOWN ON LEO WITH A KNIFE MUSIC: Romeo’s anthem: CD ‘Handel Coronation Anthems’ Track 1: ‘Zadok the Priest’ ROMEO Up! LEO WHIPS OUT HIS BLADE LEO Come on, little boy… THEY FIGHT WITH KNIVES MUSIC: CD ‘Kerrang, Best of 2003’ Track 4: ‘Pure Hatred’ (Chimaira) LEO I’m a goner. ROMEO ‘Bye. LEO DIES ROMEO SEE JULIET’S BODY AND ROARS IN ANGUISH ROMEO Juliet! HE TAKES POISON AND DIES JULIET STIRS, WAKES UP, SEES ROMEO’S BODY. JULIET Romeo! SHE SEIZES HIS DAGGER AND KILLS HERSELF. MUSIC: CD ‘In Memoriam’ Track 9: ‘Funeral March’ (Chopin) ENTER LADY CAPULET SHE SEES THE BODIES IMMEDIATELY LADY CAPULET It’s all so sad. MUSIC: CD ‘In Memoriam’ Track 1: March from Funeral Music for Queen Mary (Purcell) EXIT LADY CAPULET. ROMEO STIRS, WAKES UP. MUSIC: SOMETHING FROM CD OF DISNEY ‘ANGELIC CHORUSES’. ROMEO It’s fantastic. JULIET STIRS JULIET Amazing! MUSIC: CD ‘Discovery’ Daft Punk Track 11: Veridis Quo ROMEO AND JULIET MOVE SLOWLY TOWARDS EACH OTHER, CLASP HANDS AND WALK STRAIGHT DOWNSTAGE PARIS STIRS, GROANS AND SLOWLY STANDS UP. HE MOVES TO ROMEO & JULIET. THEY ALL HUG. MUSIC: CD ‘Gatecrasher 10 – This Time It’s Digital’ Vol 2 Track 1: ‘Do You Hear Me’ (Indiana) ROMEO, JULIET AND PARIS, THEIR DIFFERENCES FORGOTTEN, DANCE HAPPILY FOR A WHILE.
CYCLE V THE MUSIC CONTINUES. PARIS REVERTS TO LEO AND STEPS FORWARD LEO I’m Leo. ROMEO STEPS FORWARD ROMEO I’m Romeo JULIET STEPS FORWARD JULIET I’m Juliet SHE WALKS TO THE TOMB AND LIES DOWN ON IT ROMEO STABS LEO. LEO DIES. ROMEO SEES JULIET AND TAKES POISON. JULIET WAKES WITH A VIOLENT START LIKE A DISTURBED ZOMBIE. SHE SEES ROMEO, SCREAMS AND STABS HERSELF WITH HIS KNIFE. ROMEO WAKES UP. JULIET WAKES UP. PARIS WAKES UP. THEIR DIFFERENCES FORGOTTEN THEY DANCE HAPPILY FOR A WHILE.
CYCLE VI THE MUSIC CONTINUES. THEY KEEP ON DANCING. THEN ROMEO STABS LEO, WHO DIES. THEN JULIET DIES ON THE TOMB. THEN ROMEO SEES HER AND DRINKS POISON. THEN JULIET WAKES UP, SEES ROMEO AND STABS HERSELF. ROMEO WAKES UP. JULIET WAKES UP. PARIS WAKES UP. THEIR DIFFERENCES FORGOTTEN THEY DANCE HAPPILY FOR A WHILE AS THE HOUSE LIGHTS COME UP AND THE AUDIENCE IS USHERED OUT. THERE IS NO END – THEY KEEP DANCING FOREVER.
Anna down our road is having a garden party. It’s a warm day, but hardly sweltering; nonetheless, one of the guests is stripped to the waist, clad only in pale purple loon pants that hang slackly from his bony hips. He’s piling lettuce onto a plate but such is the frailty of his exposed physique that one is tempted to guide him discreetly to the potatoes – his ribs protrude from his pallid flesh like railway lines dusted with snow. Shoulder-length greying hair falls from a balding dome and his long, aquiline nose is balanced by a neat black goatee. The effect is imposing but serene. A chat under a tree elicits the fact that the topless stranger is a musician with 17 albums to his credit. With a slow gentle delivery made even softer by a faint drawl, he starts to talk about his life. He reveals that he lives in Austin, Texas, that he is 52 years old and his name is Arthur Brown.
A misty veil is wiped from the mind’s eye. Suddenly, it’s 1968 and young people wearing curtains are waving their arms in a pagan manner in a darkened hall. On a podium before them a man in a silver mask has just hollered “I AM THE GOD OF HELLFIRE!” with some menace. He is wearing a particularly striking curtain and his hair is in flames. The opening chords of “Fire” burst from the amps and the hippies flip.
Arthur Brown’s song is a major chart-topper, a nation is transfixed by hokey pop diabolism and adolescents conduct earnest debates on the merits of hairsprays that style, condition and fireproof in one application.
A few years and no more hits later, Arthur will be a rock legend. Serpent-sucking megastar Alice Cooper will say that he is indebted to the lanky Englishman for introducing him to rock theatrics. Proto-metal pompists Deep Purple will pay tribute to Brown’s fine bluesy voice. But where did Arthur go after all that fame? Indeed, what was he doing before it? Well, it’s a long story and here are some of the good bits.
Back in ’62, the God of Hellfire was studying sociology and philosophy at Reading University. He had already mastered the banjo and the double bass, and was making the transition from metaphysics to rhythm and blues. After gigging around in small clubs and not studying much, he was fired from a band called the South West Five, which was rather unfair considering he’d just convinced them to change their name to the Arthur Brown Union.
Arthur was moping in the Kilt Club, a hip Soho boite, when a sound engineer who worked at the Marquee asked him if he’d like to form a rock empire in Paris. Of course he would, and by 1965 their band was the toast of Montmartre, appearing nightly in the Ange Rouge, a club owned by Baron Lenur, who dressed like Louis Quatorze and kept a troupe of tame beatniks in the house for atmosphere. So unlikely was the spectacle of long-haired Britons playing the blues that Salvador Dali himself dropped by regularly to catch the act. “It was a very, very wild scene,” Arthur recalls fondly, “naked girls being passed around the club. I used to do audience diving.” Some nights he dived out of the front door and led the entire clientele round the block, spearheaded by a blaring saxophone.
The woman who owned the nearby strip clubs was impressed. She opened the Crazy Gambas, near Marbella in Spain and invited the Arthur Brown Set to be the house band. The management turned out to be white slave traders; they used to take their female employees’ passports, then fail to fix up their visas. “Two weeks later, they’d tell the girls the police were making enquiries and that they had to get out fast. Then they’d fly them to Africa and that was it.” One of the musicians objected to the imminent enslavement of his French girlfriend so the villains sealed off the club and sharpened their stilettos. Luckily, one of the Crazy Gambinos had some dirt on the slavemaster and turned him over to the police. Close one.
The band moved on to another Marbella club. As clubs do, it closed down, and when it did, the boys hadn’t been paid. “The band come to me and said ‘We’re going to set fire to it.’ I said ‘Count me out fellas!’ They didn’t burn the whole club down though, just the front of it.”
Strange, this aversion to arson, given what was to come, but a few clubs later Arthur had an experience in a Paris hotel corridor that marked his transition from lounge lizard to pyrotechnic legend. “I found a crown outside a door. It had candles on it. Somebody had thrown it out after a party. I went and lit the candles. It was the beginning of the ‘Fire’ thing.”
The “Fire” thing also saw Arthur blacking out his teeth, wearing big wigs and women’s dresses on stage. The reverse costume was a witch doctor’s outfit made of newspaper. Rock theatrics had taken a great leap forward. In 1967, at London’s highly psychedelian UFO Club, Arthur cut through the haze of paisley with an outfit that would etch itself in the memories of all those who escaped from the late-Sixties with unmelted synapses.
“I’d come on with the flaming helmet, and a huge orange Tibetan kind of robe, which would flare out like a whirling dervish when I turned fast, then at the end I’d take that off and there was a black velvet outfit under that.” Helmet work had its drawbacks. “The earliest one was the crown with candles on; then we moved onto a colander with candles on, but that used to stick to my hair. So the next thing was a pie dish with a hole in the middle with a screw in it and a leather strap under my chin with gasoline on top of the whole thing. The problem was that the heat used to come down through the screw onto my skull; so we devised a thing to hold the plate and from that we arrived at the final solution – the Viking helmet.”
Cow gum and other flammables were daubed on the helmet’s horns, between which was a shallow dish to hold the petrol. “It was quite comfortable, but the lights man used to get drunk and pour petrol over me as well as into the hat.” The accident waiting to happen took place at the 1968 Windsor Jazz Festival. Arthur was about to go on stage when he burst into flames: “Zoot Money – you remember him? – he put me out with beer.”
A few months later the band, known by now as The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, was spotted by Pete Townshend of The Who and introduced to Track Records. In no time at all, they released the show-stopping “Fire” and burned up the pop charts. Despite being voted the Most Undanceable Band on the scene, the Crazy World rapidly became a top, if controversial, draw: “Managers used to throw our equipment downstairs because we were so outrageous. People would slug me on stage – they’d never seen anything like it.” Antipathy was so advanced at one club that Arthur was compelled to smash the glass enclosing a double headed fire axe and brandish it defensively throughout the show. Those were the days.
Fuelled by fame, the band toured the States as support for the Doors, Jefferson Airplane, the Mothers of Invention and Jimi Hendrix. The latter had his reservations. “He initially refused to let us support him because he’d seen our press photos,” Arthur remembers. “He was worried – he knew about the fire and everything. Of course, after he’d played with us, he started setting fire to his guitar!”
Arthur, who has been winningly modest so far, cannot suppress a smug giggle at this point. However, life with the Sixties rock giants was not entirely a bowl of electric prunes: “It was a very traumatic tour. The keyboard player had been a manic depressive all his life and someone spiked his drink and he had to go into a mental home. The drummer was blown away by the culture and ended up right over the top.” At one big festival the drummer made a curious error of judgement, “He started to think he was Keith Moon but, whereas Moon would have roadies to catch the drums, this guy kicked all his off the stage and it took us 25 minutes to get the thing back together – by which time, of course, the impetus had gone.”
Arthur was not impressed by success. Despite being known as His Psychedelic Majesty and sharing the top of the UK charts with Tom Jones, it was, he felt, dull playing the same set over and over again and uncomfortable being regarded as a spiritual force by the more credulous fans. So he gave it all up, signed away his rights to “Fire” and went to live in a commune in Dorset. His managers were appalled.
It wasn’t long, though, before the deep need to make bands surfaced again. Equipped with the suitably bucolic name of the Puddletown Express, he and his colleagues set off in 1969 for France which, was still reeling from les evénements of May 1968, when students and workers had taken to the streets of Paris and de Gaulle’s government seemed set to be toppled by revolution. Rifle-toting police were everywhere and the Ministry of the Interior sent observers to the Paris gig. “The Communist Party had booked Pink Floyd, Soft Machine and us to tour France to show that they had control over the young people. Well, I came on naked and incited them to revolution.” Arthur had had his kit off before, at the Marquee back in London, and a reviewer from the Melody Maker had reported that his girlfriend had fainted when confronted with the bony spectacle. The Communists were less pleased; they lost a seat in parliament – as a result, they were convinced, of the scandal surrounding Arthur’s self-revelation. They begged him not to take his clothes off again: “Gomelsky (Arthur’s new manager) said ‘If it’s a moral statement you’re making, then go ahead, but if it isn’t please be kind to these people who’ve booked the tour’. Well, it wasn’t a moral statement, it was part of the act, so I stopped. We came home and the band folded.”
That might have been it, had Arthur not seen the angel. He was standing in a field when it appeared, four miles high, wearing a gold loincloth and holding a huge sword. It had been a question, at that point, of whether to go to a Buddhist monastery in Scotland or to form another band. Arthur gathered from the angel that he should take the path of rock. He returned to the world of tours and studios and over the next three years cut a couple of albums under the nom de guitare of Arthur Brown’s Kingdom Come. And then, once again, came the spiritual call. This led him first to a centre in Gloucestershire, and then on to a succession of other retreats where he picked up Buddhist meditation techniques. Eventually, and bizarrely, he travelled in 1971, at the invitation of the Israeli high command, to Tel Aviv, stayed in the Hilton and played songs to raise the morale of wounded troops. Mission accomplished, he returned to Britain and spent a year and a half at a Sufi school in Scotland before cutting an improvised album called Chisum in My Bosom. Then in the mid-Seventies, Africa beckoned. Arthur went to Burundi and taught music history. One of his odder tasks involved demonstrating to the local people that the American blues they admired so much actually originated in Africa.
Back home again in 1980, Arthur’s music featured a synthesiser, and Britain, he says, just wasn’t ready for it. He moved to America with his second wife, a Texan, who guided him to Austin. After a year doing carpentry in that congenial city, he fell in with Jimmy Carl Black of the Mothers of Invention, who were negotiating the post-fame thing by means of house painting. They called themselves the Gentlemen of Colour (Brown and Black) and made a decent living from their brushwork. So many of the guys in the paint team were musicians that Arthur, never one to pass up a band opportunity, managed to put out two more albums. By 1985, he’d succeeded in assembling a lucrative deal for a blues album that would bring together Jack Bruce, Carl Palmer, Keith Emerson and others. The deal fell apart, and Arthur had visions of struggling on in this not-quite mode until he was 90. Something had to be done.
At last, at the end of the Eighties, Arthur found the perfect way to reconcile his lust for rock with the increasing tranquillity of his inner life; he qualified as a counsellor and invented a new therapy. How does it work? A colleague leads the counselling session, while Arthur sits in silence and listens to the client unburdening him or herself. Then, taking up his guitar, “I improvise a song or a poem which brings out the unspoken undercurrents of the session”. The customised calypso is recorded onto cassette and given to the client to play at leisure in his or her home. Eminent psychiatrists were impressed; so much so that the singer was able to take his therapeutic guitar into a special unit for six months and work with young women drug addicts and their families.
The spontaneous song part of the process worked so well that Arthur wondered if it would work on stage. He’d always had a yen to do the Glastonbury Festival, so he asked an agent to fix up a British tour. The agent got 38 gigs in 42 days, but couldn’t clinch Glastonbury. Arthur stormed around the UK anyway, and all kinds of people came to see him: teenagers, grizzled fans who knew all his lyrics and a stream of ex-members of his innumerable bands. One night, he developed a terrible headache halfway through the set and had to stagger off, leaving the fans wide-eyed and feckless in the auditorium. Such was the level of abandon already generated that within minutes the rumour began circulating that Arthur had been abducted by aliens and whisked up into a hovering mothership.
That was last year. Now Arthur’s back again, recuperating from a second British tour, working with Lene Lovich, and writing an opera with a Latvian composer. Which is why he’s in Anna’s back garden. So what is the name of the band this time around, Arthur? The God of Hellfire smiles sagely. “Ah! That was the agent’s idea – it’s called ‘The Even Crazier World of Arthur Brown’.”
I shall carry the images to my grave. In one of the two shows I’ve written and directed for presentation at Wimbledon College of Art this week (previewed here), the designers proposed a set, described in the playlet text here, the walls of which were built to be leaped through. Large, thin, rectangular sheets of polystyrene were papered with wallpaper then mounted in frames between a series of doors. The walls thus formed looked entirely solid. The audience had no clue as to their fragility. Two minutes from the end of the show, which had featured a great deal of farce-style dashing in and out of six doors, the actors played a scene behind the set, not visible to the audience, who could only hear their voices. A dangerous situation requiring instant escape arises…
But first, the prototyping. In a rehearsal and building process which compresses two weeks’ work into three days, it became necessary to see just what might happen when an actor took a run and jump at a wall. We ran a scene back to the top so that the designated jumper, Jude Barrington, could arrive at the wall with the full weight of the drama behind her. The production team stood back to watch the test. At the appropriate moment, Jude dove through, from frontstage to back. With a satisfying crack, the wall gave, leaving a gaping hole through which one could see an actress slowing down. All present cheered and clapped.
By the following day it had been decided that rather than jumping through the wall away from the audience, the actors would jump towards the audience. Michael Pavelka, supervising the designers, had suggested loading the backs of the exploding panels with cement powder, which would hang cloudily in the air as the wall exploded. In the dress rehearsal the office scene is enacted and a dangerous situation requiring instant escape arises. The air is rent with twin explosions and the empty fore stage is suddenly littered with chunks and graced with the spectacle of two figures dancing fiercely to the pounding strains of Novaspace’s mix of ‘Beds Are Burning‘. The actresses have gone through. A second later the centre panel blasts apart, sundered by the flying body of Chris Newland, who, as soon as his feet hit the ground, starts dancing. Fade to black.
Not bad – could be better. The panel on audience right has not shattered because Katie Roberts – who didn’t get a test dive because we were low on polystyrene – ran at it without putting her arms up, thereby pushing it aside rather than wrecking it. This is discussed and arm positions are demonstrated. The crew has twenty minutes to install fresh, pre-papered panels.
Two hours later ‘In the Bosom of Roy‘ is under way with a packed house rammed right up to the very edge of the stage. A dangerous situation requiring instant escape arises. A deafening and utterly startling explosion delivers, almost into the laps of the front row, two actresses, hazed around with dust, dancing in front of two gaping, Tom and Jerry-style black holes. To the further astonishment of the audience, Chris hurtles out a moment later and the cast dances dementedly in the debris of the formerly pristine set.