A Chat with Dangerous Comedy Monster Red Bastard
International phenomenon Red Bastard, the white-faced, red-eyed human space hopper slash “devil incarnate” strapped into a lycra body suit, brings his interactive, visceral and physical show to Brighton Fringe and Brighton’s Komedia this May 16th-20th. We got a chance to speak with the man behind the lycra Eric Davis.
Who is Red Bastard in a nutshell?
Red Bastard is a Dangerous Seductive Comedy Monster. He lives in the collective unconscious and he’s come to play with you.
You’ve been performing Red Bastard for a long time now. What keeps it fresh for you and holds your attention after all this time?
The audience is what keeps it fresh. Because the show involves actual space for conversation, no 2 shows or audiences are the same. Even after years of performing the show, I am still floored by things that happen in the show.
I imagine one of the things that keeps you engaged with Red Bastard is what you get back from the audience. You really decimate the fourth wall, in fact all barriers between you and your audience come tumbling down (I just watched a clip of an audience member opera singing into your mouth!) Audiences really open up during your performances and people have shared intimate truths and made life changing decisions at the shows. Are there any stand out moments of audience participation that you feel like sharing?
A couple of marriage proposals. That was pretty cool. Some people have quit their jobs to go on to start new careers. A 50 year old Yorkshire man had never said I love you to his father and said I love you for the first time ever. I even know a lady who divorced her husband and attributed it to the show. People have done amazing things at the show. I might even be the person who’s reading this right now, Yes YOU- who does the amazing thing. Come find out.
Why do you think people feel like they are able to open up so much, and what is it about the show that allows people to do so? Are they seduced and cajoled or are they co-erced and prodded? What is the winning formulae that gives the show the power to change peoples lives?
It’s a special show. And I create a special space. One where we can have roaring laughter, as well as fear and also deep intimacy. Of course the levels of those experiences, change all the time. Imagine dating different people. I’m a pretty good dater, and yet every audience is different, so the tone of the shows can be radically different. Contrary to what some people would assume. I don’t push people into things. I step right up to the line and invite them to cross over with me. People want what they want. They are afraid to get it, though.
Certainly there seems to be a therapeutic, cathartic element for audience members but does this extend to yourself? Do you feel like Red Bastard has been therapeutic for you?
Without question. I heard of an interview with a Native American medicine man, who said if he stopped healing others, he would himself return to sickness. I am finally understanding this in a practical way. I think not many do what I do. It’s entertainment, but it’s also something else. There are big ideas and emotions, that are tapped into in a way which is not merely, vicarious, as in a movie or a standard play. It’s direct. And I am directly effected as well.
I imagine that if you hadn’t heard anything about the show, the physicality of the Red Bastard character is something that really hooks people in and ignites their interest in a very immediate way. How important is Red Bastards lumpy exterior to the show and what does it bring or allow you to do in the performance?
A good mask can be transformative. There is a tradition in some masks that the wearer of the mask, by putting it on, becomes a conduit to something greater than himself. Something external- A spirit, a god. For me it allows me to find something internal and release it. And for the audience, it allows them to see (for a moment) not me, the man, but the monster. Potentially a monster they always hoped existed, that they are fascinated by and yet afraid at the same time. Don’t you wish Willy Wonka was real? Living up on that mysterious hilltop in the factory. Wouldn’t you want a golden ticket, and yet wouldn’t you be afraid to use it? But you have to know. Get your ticket. ; )
Where did you get the idea for the appearance of your character? What was the moment that you said – “I want to do this show, but I want to do it smuggling space hoppers in red lycra.”
I was attempting to make a body for myself that was even more fun to move in than my own. I am naturally thin and angular. I wanted to be voluptuous. Maybe if you come to the show, you’ll get to feel those curves!
A lot of people immediately go to “Big feet, red nose, curly wig, cream pies” when they think about clowns. You quite clearly can’t be reduced to this – Could you just tell me how you would define “Clown” as a genre of comedy, what it means to you and where you fit in here? You seem hard to pin down in terms of a genre – how would you categorise your show?
That’s a huge question. Well, the idea of clown has often been reduced in our culture to some pretty $h%&*y things. Anyone who sees a truly fantastic clown recognized greatness. But a lot of clowns stay in the territory of cutesy and what I would call IMPOTENT. I was told once that clowns don’t have genitalia and I wanted to punch that person in the face. Clowning goes all the way back to nomadic shamanism before town and cities were being built. We’ve forgotten its potential. That sickness comes from the Underworld. The West was told by the Church that there’s nothing of value for us in Hell. But there is also power there. If you can survive the trials and demons of the underworld you come back with knowledge. Anyone who’s survived something difficult knows this. Clowns can be naive, but they can also be chaotic, anarchic, dangerous, wise and confronting.
The show has been described as “Marmite”. It regularly receives 5 star ratings and overwhelmingly good ratings, but has also received the infrequent one star and everything in between. Do you aim to please? Or does the mixed reception tell you that your doing something right?
Imagine a triangle. One corner is the Whore. One corner is the Fascist. Another corner is the Anarchist. The whore merely wants to entertain and please and would do anything to do that. The Fascist is an artist who just wants to drive his message down your throat, and doesn’t care if it’s entertaining or not. The Anarchist, simply wants to liberate the energy in the space through chaos and structured abandon. I strive to have a balance of all of these in my show. I’ve been confronted. I’ve had people tell me I should not be doing what I’m doing. I’ve had people stand to their feet in the middle of a show and cry out at the top of their lungs in protest. I’ve also had people tell me that they changed the course of their lives and it happened at the show. It’s never comfortable when people don’t like it. But that’s ok for me. I’m clear on my intent and I believe it’s just.
Is there anything your looking forward to seeing at the Brighton fringe this year? Will you even have time to see anything else?
I certainly hope I have time to see other shows! I love Die Roten Punkte!
Personally what I think is really refreshing about the show is the physicality of it. It’s an antidote to a lot of pretentious and dry intellectualism that’s knocking about in comedy these days. It’s not, however, just empty physical comedy but actually has something to say, achieves something, gives something and gets something back. That’s not really a question just my opinion. Do you agree?
No. This interview is over.