'I think therefore I am.'  Descartes            'I AM THAT I AM.'  Exodus.3.        'I am what I am.'  La Cage aux Folles

18 September 2010

Nudity on Stage

Some stories related to famous plays I have seen with stage nudity and a couple I wish I had.
Click to enlarge photos and play videos.
Lindsay Kemp is a British dancer, actor, teacher, mime artist and choreographer.
The Lindsay Kemp Company once toured here quite some time back and the Premier of our state wanted to ban the production of Flowers as it contained a lot of notorious nudity. This exceptional and well know production is a true masterpiece to behold. I was in attendance on opening night and then somehow found myself uninvited at an opening night party where I met all the cast, fell in love with Françoise Testory who was the beautiful centrepiece boy of the production and made my Introduction to Lindsay Kemp by butting into a conversation he was having with someone by exclaiming "God you talk bullshit" what possessed me to speak like that I will never remember. No doubt I was drunk. Anyway in the course of the evening I invited them to my home for a party. Some days later the entire cast and crew arrived on my doorstep after a performance and proceeded to party until dawn. I recall chatting to Lindsay Kemp about his recent nomination for an Academy Award. He was laughing at the fact that the Americans had nominated him as a newcomer, but he had been around for 20 years. David Bowie and Kate Bush had worked with and been trained in his company. I also went on the closing night and had kisses all round. 
Amongst  all the 'sophisticated' theatre I have seen around the world there have also been times when I I have had great fun at a few nude plays like 'Let my people Come' and 'Oh Calcutta'  which I saw in the 70's in London and others since that people flock to but are often shy about expressing appreciation. Sold out houses every evening, but back then the applause was rather muted.  No one liked to admit in public, the titillation or enjoyment of such shows, but everyone had to see them. I recall going home in the underground after Let My People Come and having one of the gorgeous cast sitting opposite me, when just a short while earlier I had been watching him cavorting impressively naked on stage. I felt excited, but shy and he just looked tired. 
I had sometimes wondered how male actors would handle an unpredictable arousal when naked, and discovered that it can happen accidentally although in Let my People Come it may have been intentional. I was once taken to task over that comment by a disgruntled New York actor who had performed in 'Let My People Come' there. He berated me via email about the dedication of actors and how they were too busy marking their spot and remembering their lines etc. to let a silly thing like an erection happen. I thought he took himself far too seriously and was far to sensitive. Perhaps he was just a bad actor. On the other hand shortly after that the director of 'The Rose'  (below) wrote to me saying he liked my comments and then forwarded me about 150 photographs of his exceptionally wonderful productions
A far more serious piece of theatre was The Rose presented in the Old Melbourne Goal, where Australia's Famous outlaw Ned Kelly was hung on 11th November 1880 and he was also buried next to the Gaol wall.It was directed by the fabulous Robert Chuter and was based on Jean Genet's great book 'Miracle of the Rose'. We the audience stood on the balconies outside the different levels of cells and leant on the freezing iron railings looking at the production as it unfolded below. The beautiful photos above were kindly sent to me as mentioned by the director. Anyway, to my previous point, on the cold stone floor in the middle of Winter it became obvious that some actors had to just carry on when their member began standing at attention in a performance that required a lot of nudity and intense physical interaction between the cast. I had it confirmed that self control is not always possible. Perhaps it is unintentional, but it can happen. Be sure to check out his plays when you can.
Something I lifted from the net.

Robert Chuter is an acclaimed theatre director with 30 years experience in the Australian performing arts industry. With his groundbreaking productions such as Le Miracle de la Rose and Lady Chatterley's Lover, he earned himself a reputation as a formidable creative mind and collected multiple awards along the way. His productions have been staged internationally and he has recently returned from a 3 year stint in the West End.
Hair was a 1,000 km trip to see in the late 60's and through rain and snow we made it to be thrilled at that age by people taking off their clothes on stage. It was a piece of its time and I can not see how any revival can be anything more than nostalgia. Certainly it can no longer be as political and revolutionary as it was then Another was Equus (photo above is from the film) way back when it was originally performed. I recall how they had also arranged for a few rows of seats on the stage, behind the actors, but staring straight at the other 600 in the audience who no doubt could see any reaction I might have when the young boy spent so much time naked a couple of feet in front of me and a man/horse standing at my shoulder. It was a thrilling play but also embarrassing. No doubt many have searched for the badly filmed snippets of Daniel Radcliffe performing in Equus on Broadway and The West End but there is a sensational film with Peter Firth and Richard Burton and it is available to buy.

What a happy play and film is 'Naked Boys Singing' (the photo is from the film cast). This is such fun and for me yet another example of how well nudity can fit in a stage production. I find no offence at seeing beautiful bodies. There is no shame in rejoicing naked when none is felt or expected. I am lucky enough to have a friend/actor who was in the local production This great little play has swept throughout the world so it shows how popular nudity can be

Part gymnast, part acrobat, part contemporary dancer, he calls himself an 'equilibrist', the amazing German, Erik von Stuckenbrok has performed widely from the Teddy Awards Berlin 2009 to the Sydney Opera House in Jan 2011. Generously he is a friend on Facebook so I can follow his performances.

After performing at the Royal Command Performance London 2011, Eike meeting The Princess Royal.
A small extract from my novel 'Dance With The Sun'
The young artist's hair grew as fast as his talents. He managed to get a small decorative part in a production of The Satyricon. This was through a friend of his mother, who was having a respite from rather bad opera direction and dabbling in some ancient Roman obscenity, he said, to re-energise his feel for the theatre. The boy’s natural theatricality and stunning appearance tended to dominate the stage somewhat in the scenes that he appeared in. With his hair curled and sprayed with gold flecks, and a light covering of oil on his body, he emerged from a giant rose coloured clam shell draped in no more than a napkin sized sheer gold cloth around his hips. He sprang from the aquatic womb to the applause of the players, and with a song he imparted the blessings of the sea on the whores and freaks of a Rome, fatally beset by moral decay. He lounged through various other tableaux with both masculine and feminine appeal. Later he appeared chained atop a pyramid shaped structure from which he was hurled to the floor to dance and die after being ravished by guests at a banquet. If nothing else his scenes were erotic to both the boy and the audience. The director's desire to make the boy's looks and body so prominent was perhaps not an entirely successful move for such a small non-pivotal role. He was a distraction from the main players, but excessive flamboyance is probably not that out of place in a crude piece of sexual exploitation like The Satyricon, where the tale is secondary to the telling. Such glorification of the human body and the excesses of a world obsessed by its own gratification were themes common to the times of Nero, and the sixties. Neither age was satisfied, and the spirit eventually passed, but perhaps mankind has to indulge in these periods from time to time to give it a chance to reassure itself that pleasure truly is not the goal. 
The Red Bus Stops Here (2000) from Amnon Wolman on Vimeo.
The stunning well toured Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre troupe from here in Brisbane, whose performances are always wonderful to behold.
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