The Futurists understood. Perched there on the slopes of the Twentieth Century, trampling the flowers, pissing on the trees, feral aesthetes in the funeral parlour. Naughty boys pulling down the statues, questioning the certainties, outraging the elite. Combining the scorn of the streets with the wisdom of youth, an art form where attitude is everything, unafraid, unadorned, defiant.
Consider the manifestos, swirling documents of faith and cynicism . When Marinetti wrote ‘The Variety Theatre’ on September 29. 1913, his words were heard against the creeping backdrop of the great conflict, rumbling death spreading throughout Europe. It was no longer possible to separate oneself from events on the political front.
As in life, so in the New Futurist Theatre. The collapse of society mirrored in a movement dedicated to the active destruction of the overblown, verbose, stultifying art forms propping up a disintegrating status quo with reassuring dead aesthetics from another time. Then when all reason was lost and human beings had exhausted their potential for devastation and despair, the Dadaists made art from inanity, gave shape to existential rage, elevated the instant to the art form, the naked train of thought and association sufficient conduit to creation. Dedicated to extremity, alternatives to a meaningless world, a science and an art form designed to liberate and destroy.
There are a lot more – I think you get the picture.
I was in the bar at the Roundhouse when I first saw them, this extraordinary Gypsy collection of actors, clumping in twos and threes, sprawled at tables, lounging by the long wooden bar. The Living Theatre was in town, counter cultural phenomenon had arrived in London, en route to Berlin – heading for destruction. They had already lived their counter culture in the States, spent five years down all those winding tunnels of politics and freedom, lived through more than any decent actor could ever expect to. But these were not decent folk; these expatriate marauders had started riots during their shows all over the world.
Paradise Now, apocalyptic scenes of the near future, complete with a kind of political nudity that made the human body a statement rather than a sensuality. I could go on. Life changing, radical, explosive, wildly unpredictable theatre from outer space.
But this was theatre of a highly explosive nature in a particular climate, high priests of an elite theatrical group of innovators, spirited experimentation into the purposes of theatre, the many validities of outraging the audience in search of some kind of simplified truth. Hippy bullshit a lot of it, but timed so perfectly that it passed for truth for this little Tasmanian, fresh off the boat in 1969.
The show was a liberation to me, a revelation. I was seeing things I had only heard about, the last great flush of the Age of Aquarius. The Rolling Stones were in the Park, Jimi Hendrix was playing on the Isle of Wight, the Incredible String Band were everywhere, I was nineteen.
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