Wednesday, 24 October 2007

A story about an illegal car parking space, a theatre company called ‘Wonder Pants’ and a persistent official from Perth and Kinross Council.

There was a time when I just couldn’t get any decent work in Scotland. I tried everything; I even worked in a call centre for six months which drove me potty. I couldn’t stand the repetitive nature of the job and being hemmed in like a bloody battery hen, it was all too much. The thing that particularly annoyed me about the regime was that you had to ask permission whenever you wanted to go to the toilet. It was an absolute sweatshop, often the reaction I got from the miserable, spotty, adolescent supervisor was, ‘Can’t you wait?’ The thing was, I couldn’t wait, so I quit.

At the time, eight years ago, I was earning just one hundred and forty five pounds a week – grim.

One day, in a sulk I took myself off to Edinburgh for the day. Whilst I was there I met the people in the photo above. I got talking to them; well I had nothing else to do. I was broke and miserable, so I thought I would speak to the idiots in the photo for a bit, thought that they might cheer me up.

They were a friendly bunch, who were out, on the Royal Mile, handing out leaflets advertising their fringe show.

They told me that one of their actors had broken his leg, during a midnight bender. Then they said, ‘How long are you in Edinburgh?’

‘Me, well I live in Perth’.

Actor playing a duck: Hey, she’s about the right size, isn’t she Bert?

Bert playing a pelican: (over enthusiastic) Yeah she is. Are you free this afternoon? We’ll pay you. You’d really be helping us out, you know.

Me playing myself: How much?

Susan playing a vulture: (with difficulty removes her beak, in order that she can speak and be heard, otherwise it would have been a muffled kind of a voice). Fifty pounds per afternoon.

Me: Okay, I’m in. (I shake hands/paws/claws with the animals/human beings)

It was easy work. I felt like a bit of a tit though, but I did it. The production was called ‘Animal Magic’, we showcased the work at the Botanical Gardens, in Edinburgh. It was by the avante garde playwright Johnny Mufflecakes. He was a former student of Warwick University’s experimental Theatre workshop, which took its inspiration from the now deceased, revolutionary Theatre Practitioner, Jerzy Grotoswki.

Johnny Mufflecakes, is the guy in the photo, right at the back, with the mask on. He gave us the brief, that’s what he called it, the brief. He said, ‘I want to push the boundaries between audience and performer’. He didn’t want the audience to be passive, no, you see what Mr. Mufflecakes wanted was for full audience participation, he wanted them to feel the actors – literally, we’re talking skin against fur, hand against claw, lips against beaks.

So, this is what we did. There was no script, as such, well animals don’t speak, do they? No, instead we were all given a tape recording of the animal noise that we should be making during our performances.

Johnny Mufflecakes now playing a sleuth, with sinister looking, uneven claws (stereo-typical personae of a RADA trained actor): Under no circumstances can you enter into dialogue with any members of the public. It is a fundamental part of this production that you embrace with your entire physical, emotional and spiritual being the nature of the furry animal that you are wearing. If you deviate from this, then you’re sacked and ‘Wonder Pants’ will never use your services again. Do you understand?

Entire cast of thirty animals: Yes, Johnny Mufflecakes.

Johnny Mufflecakes now playing a Brazilian Bull frog: (Evil, ironic, melodramatic laugh) Ah, you see cast of furry creatures, you got that wrong. Do you understand me?

An embarrassing pause, confused people in badly fitting furry costumes looking around at each other for ….

A tiny actor wearing a penguin costume pushes his way to the front of the crowd to confront Johnny Mufflecakes.

Tiny actor wearing a penguin costume: (squeaky voice) Sorry, Johnny, at this point are we all supposed to be making our animal noises, in recognition of what you just said?

Johnny Mufflecakes now playing a baboon with a large red bum: Yes exactly! Whenever I speak to you, cast of thirty, you respond with your animal noise. So, let’s ask Mr. Cow over there. Do you understand me Mr. Highland Cow?

Large Sweaty Lady, who is not coping very well under the multi-layered Highland cow costume: (slight pause due to the woman sucking on her asthma inhaler, then ….) Moooooooo Mooooo Mooo.

The entire cast of thirty all make their animal noises, which represents their approval/recognition of Johnny Mufflecake’s (who is now dressed as a Centipede) directions.

We were all dressed like all of the animals in Noah’s Ark, so I was zebra; someone else was a crocodile etc … etc… Then of course there were ducks, a couple of tigers – God they were scary, but then I remembered there weren’t really any tigers there, it was just a couple of guys wearing fake fur suits, they were human beings actually.

Anyway we all hid in the bushes and some of us hid in the undergrowth, in the greenhouses, at the botanical gardens, and every time a member of the public went past, we jumped out at them and then wrestled them to the ground.

Johnny Mufflecakes now playing a kangaroo: Look, I don’t want you people to differentiate between any members of the public, they’re all human beings, so you all just jump out at them, wrestle the fuckers to the ground. And, to answer your earlier question, Catriona, if they have crutches you treat them in exactly the same way as if they were able-bodied. Do you understand? Now let’s go and get those human beings!!!!

The cast of thirty people wearing animal suits can be seen dispersing around the botanical gardens, running to their hiding places (Yelling) Yeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!!! Yip peeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!! Woooooooooooooooo!!!!!! Let’s get ‘em’! Way to go!!!!

Johnny Mufflecakes now playing an albino python: Christ what did I tell those idiots, they’re animals, not humans!

The story about the illegal car parking space and the council official is to follow.

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