What do you get ifyou perform a show with a 7-foot dinghy. a sea-chest and an inflatable globe? You get swallowed by a whale, of course. At any rate. that‘s what happens to our hero in Les Bubb‘s new show. Another Fine Mess.

Unlike the hapless prophet Jonah. Bubb is not a bringer of bad news. but he has certainly been studying it. A nother Fine Mess is about the way mankind is inadvertantly or otherwise making a mess of the planet. a theme which almost everyone is taking seriously these days. ‘The character I play is sick.‘ he explains. ‘which is a sort ofparallel to the condition of the Earth.

‘I can remember at school when l was six or seven writing stuff about cars and saying “I‘ll never have one: they pollute the atmosphere‘ and stuff— I probably had hippy Sixties teachers telling me that. but I remembered it and throughout life I‘ve watched things get worse. and I‘ve seen that we‘re trying to sustain a balance that we can‘t keep.‘

Topical as it is now. concern for the environment has not long been so prominent on the public agenda. ‘Wc started doing the research around Christmas. January. February.‘ says Bubb. ‘and at that time we had to search for material in the papers about it. And it‘s gone up hundreds ofper cent in the last few months alone. Even in those ones which are considered very Right Wing and pro-'I‘hatcher.‘

Like most ofus. Bubb is a little sceptical about our beloved leader‘s sudden concern for matters environmental. ‘I don‘t doubt her sincerity in wanting to do something about it.‘ he says. ‘but I don‘t really think it was there in the first place and what with the elections coming up again and oh dear— how many

voted Green?‘

In a sense. the research Bubb did with the show‘s original co-deviser and director Phc lim McDermott was too fruitful. ‘We had quite a body of information.‘ he says. ‘but the subject was difficult to tackle because everything was so depressing. It wasn‘t lending itselfto being a really groovy and amusing show. so for a while we let the environmental stufftake a back seat.‘ And that was when the whale idea came in.

‘I was thinking ofparallels.‘ he explains. ‘because Jonah had been given an errand by God and he didn‘t want to do it. While he was in the whale. he went through a transformation and I think at the beginning of the show I was going to be a much more anti-Green person who was transformed in the whale but I think that would be over-stating it really.‘

With a background in cabaret that includes supporting Harry Enfield. Lenny Henry and Fry & Laurie. Bubb is more interested in absorbing his audience than in making statements. His first foray into theatre since leaving drama school in 1981 was the recent Sonata in Dream Major. ‘That show worked best.‘ he says, ‘in a flippant. cabaret style. Like this show. it‘s not funny all the time. but it has humorous parts and parts that are more serious. You get quite a bleak picture ofwhat we‘re doing to the world.‘

An actor with mime and acrobatic skills. Bubb is able to make up his own rules for the style of his shows. ‘I like to get into the scenes and do something alone on stage.‘ he says. ‘but then be able to talk to the audience when I want to. It‘s like storytelling: sometimes I‘m addressing them directly. which is an

{The List 18 24 August 1989

easier way of playing than sticking up a fourth wall between me and them and saying “you‘re there and I‘m here“. You don‘t have to mime everything out and have people thinking “What‘s he doing now?"

Bubb first performed in Edinburgh in 1981 with a company from the Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff. The show was Double Fantasy. one of ‘about five‘ John Lennon shows that appeared at the Fringe the year after his death. He left Cardiff without completing his degree course. which he felt was not providing what he wanted. The usual round ofwriting letters and attending auditions proved futile. even when more experimental c.v.s. with pictures involving rubber bands. were employed. ‘Agencies would write to me saying "We don‘t deal with this kind ofact“. so I got in by the back door. through cabaret. mainly.‘

He later studied mime in Paris. with Etienne Decroux. Theatre du Mouvement and the extraordinary Phillipe Gaulier. Returning to Britain in late 1985. he began to establish a reputation for energetically physical and visual work.

His last visit to Edinburgh was with Circus Senso. which performed in Pilrig Park in 1986. This time. things are a bit easier. ‘l‘m particularly looking forward to having responsibility for doing a show on my own. I suppose.‘ he quips. ‘ifyou‘ve got the use of a theatre for two weeks you can be as arty as you like.‘ Although he stresses that Another Fine Mess is ‘more to do with entertainment and theatre than it is political or Green.‘ his intentions are serious enough. ‘You‘re not always happy.‘ he says. ‘just playing around making a prat ofyourselfto make

ElP MA Ill:

Comedian and mime artist Les Bubb is having a whale of a time trying to save the planet. Andrew Burnet spoke to him about his ‘major comedy oftragic proportions’, Another Fine Mess. created in collaboration with Fringe First winner Phelim McDermott and Perrier Award winner Ben Keaton.

money. You start feeling like you want to be a bit more useful.‘

The show is designed by Ben Keaton. an occasional performer whose style so tickled Fringe audiences in 1986 that his show Intimate Memoirs of an Irish Taxidermist won the Perrier Award for comedy. Bubb‘s other main collaborator was Phelim McDermott. who co-founded the experimental group dereck dereck (which won a Fringe First in 1985 and was recently seen in The Sweet Shop Owner at Mayfest).

Apart from his own physical skills. Bubb will be relying largely on his limited but unusual collection of props. ‘They all double up or treble up as other things.‘ he explains. ‘and hopefully we‘re using them in an imaginative way. The main purpose of having the whale was that l was in a place where there were no other people. and I can‘t pull out all sorts ofprops. I have to use what's there.‘

But the whale has obvious significance. for example in the Greenpeace logo. "The whale was the symbol ofthe

natural world. It swallowed me for a purpose. to try

and find out why we

were doing what we were % doing. Unfortunately

I can‘t reach such lofty

ideals in a piece of _ visual theatre when _." I‘m alone on i stage.‘