Queer in he extreme
The story of Leigh Bowery, with knobs on
As Boy George’s sensational musical, Taboo, makes its first Scottish visit, we ask MARK LITTLE about perviness, politics, and performance artist Leigh Bowery.
Words: Steve Cramer
s I replay the tape of my interview with Mark
Little. who will be playing Leigh Bowery in
the touring production of 721/200. the infamous Boy George musical. I realise that our conversation has lapsed into Aussie colloquial Usage. great for us expatriates. but a bit confusing. perhaps. for you. I may be required to translate.
‘The thing about Bowery is he was a stirrer [that is. a person who creates trouble and sensation. for its own sake]. He was a supreme ratbag la charlatan and trickster. who can. nevertheless. be likcablel.~ Little 'Zisserts. And there is something fascinating about Bowery's character. more complex and challenging. perhaps than (ieorge himself. Bowery. another Atistralian expat. was a performance artist and fashion icon whose influence is still felt among fashion designers today. His stance. that of creating
art through his own body. designing outrageous. over-
coloured transvestite clothes and make-up. put even Boy (ieorge in the shade. And his work was confrontational and political. With his death through an AIDS related illness in 1993. British art lost a substantial figure. And so too did clubland. for Bowery was a club entrepreneur who set up the freakish club from which this musical takes its title. The musical sets up Boy (ieorge and Bowery as antagonists and. with a fictional love story thrown in.
examines the rise and fall of other such notables of
the period as Steve Strange and Marilyn. At the centre is the new romantic movement in the early 80s. the music and lifestyles of people who were proud to call themselves freaks. All of this came about in the oppressive early years of 'I‘hatcherism. when the economic vandalism of the (‘onscrvative government
‘BOWERY WAS VERY POLITICAL HE WAS ABOUT CONFRONTING, AND TERRIFYING THE AUDIENCE.’
created mass unemployment and poverty.
But was new romanticism a confrontation with these political realities. or an escape‘.’ Little is as refreshingly candid as ever. ‘I think a lot of these people were just running away. There‘s a line in the play I hate. when (ieorge says “This is nothing to do with politics. it‘s not about dressing down. it‘s about dressing up." But I play Bowery. who's the opposite. lie was very political. He was about confronting the audience. He was against gay politics and straight politics of the time. You and I were in Australia then. and we didn‘t even have a Boy (ieorge. It was the death of a lot of things. and everyone was suddenly a yuppie. big fat mobiles. cocaine everywhere. It was shithouse [not a
to London like Bowery. But it was no better here in Britain.‘
Little feels that this production creates a different emphasis on the Bowery figure. giving him more substance. "I‘he original production saw him played by Boy (ieorge. then .lulian (‘lary. but the part hasn‘t been played by an actor before. Also. he was a big Aussie. with a vicious gay sense of humour. I think I can bring that Australian sense of humour to the part. Now. I can‘t get away with shitting in a bucket or pissing at the audience. which was the kind of thing Bowery did. but I‘ve really got close to the character. and that sense of confrontation was something. in the field of stand tip. I was doing at that time.’ And indeed he was. I saw him?
Taboo is at the King’s Glasgow, Tue 27-Sat 31 Jan, and the King’s Edinburgh, Mon 1-Sat 5 Mar. The King’s Glasgow will be holding a Taboo club night on Sat 24 Jan.
good situation]. I wish I‘d run off
Re Tread/rig the Boards
Lewis Howden leads in Nightingale and Chase
THE ClTlZENS‘ THEATRE HAS made a bold start to the year with a new play by one of Scotland's most distinguished yoang authors. Zinnie Harris. whose fringe hit of 2000. Further Than the Furthest Thing. won huge acclaim from critics on both sides of the border. has her writing hat back on after a long period of directing. Her new play. Nightingale and Chase. wrll open on Wednesday 4th February amidst much anticipation. Directed by Guy Hollands. it tells the stOry of a woman abOut to be released from prison. and her impending reunion with her man. But the woman. Chase, IS primarily concerned with the whereab0uts of their son. The cast incorporates Lewis Howden and Lesley Hart. an experienced and well respected combination. and should make for an engaging night of theatre.
ELSEWHERE, IN THE CIRCLE studio, Janet Munsil’s Smoking With Lulu, directed by Kenny Miller, recreates a fascinating historical moment in the meeting of Louis Brooks and Kenneth Tynan. It seems a shame that Tynan, who, along with Harold Hobson, was perhaps the most influential theatre critic in post war British history, should more often be remembered for his open confession of some unusual sexual tastes than for his work. There isn’t a serious critic on these islands today who hasn’t, to some degree, been influenced by Tynan’s practice of the craft, whether they approve of his approach to writing or not. The play reconstructs a meeting between Tynan and the silent film star, for whom the critic had a life-long fascination. It’s an exploration of ideal and reality, as well as acting and criticism, and should make for thought-provoking entertainment.
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