Devoted & Disgruntled 12: What Shall We Do About Theatre and the Performing Arts Now?

Where can a Deadpool and Cards Against Humanity fan find obnoxious and sarcastic performance?

Chloe Mashiter - 15 January 2017




The impulse behind calling this session came from various places:

- Realising the tone of my humour when talking to friends/playing games/watching films/etc is very different to the humour I see onstage at theatres
- Wanting to have a more bolshy and jokey conversation with people in general
- Desperately wanting to figure out how to use obnoxiousness and sarcasm (in the best senses of the words) in a narrative piece of theatre
- Wanting to see more sarcastic humour and bombastic attitude in advertising and suchlike for theatre
- The conversations I have about theatre and with theatremakers (typically on Twitter) being much more sarcastic and obnoxious and jokey than the work we end up producing

I failed to record names. We were too busy talking really.

The group listed a lot of companies or individuals they think somehow match up with sarcasm/obnoxiousness onstage:

Red Bastard
Caroline Horton's Islands
Ship of Fools
(All of the above three are examples of Bouffon, which was referenced as a tradition that uses sarcasm/obnoxiousness a lot. “The definition of Bouffon is: make the audience laugh all the way through until they get home, then they realise ‘this is about me’ and they kill themselves”)
Selina Thompson and her tumbleweave
A young man dressed as an old man dressed as a gorilla sits rocking in a rocking chair (doing a sudoku? reading a newspaper?) for 45 minutes then leaves. (Quite possibly paraphrased)
Ontroerend Goed
(Initially mentioned for Once And For All We're Going To Tell You Who You Are So Shut Up And Listen. There was a bit of a tangent - but a very enjoyable one - where we got into describing Ontroerend Goed's ‘Internal’ and how that actually worked. OG's work is often so different one show to the next, but there's definitely an obnoxious or sarcastic slant at times - but always implemented for a specific point)
Looking For Paul by Wonderbaum (noted that a lot of people left during the first hour as the company were just reading their emails to each other - but those who stayed found it so funny)
Kim Noble
ACMS/Alternative Comedy Memorial Society (their joke seats, presenting comedy that wouldn't work elsewhere)
(Not because of Kim Noble, but related: scat tangent to conversation at some point)
Pirate Clown
Frankie Boyle
Simon Munnery
Neil Hamburger
Nick Helm (so obnoxious and yet very likeable/you don't take against him in performance)
Doug Stanhope
Improv Everywhere
Guerrilla Girl
Trajal Harell (show ‘Immersive’ mentioned - name possibly misspelt)
Pantos in general
Terry Alderton
Al Murray (it was mentioned there's an lecture online with him talking about creating FUKUP(?), and it was discussed about the line between his character and himself and how this was misinterpreted/simply not seen by some)
Bryony Kimmings (obnoxious in sense of unapologetic)
Enda Walsh (we discovered a lot of interesting Enda Walsh facts, like how he wrote Once. Very unexpected)
Sarah Kane (specific mentions for Blasted and Cleansed, and for how funny some of us find her work - that feeling when you're laughing whilst others look like they're going to be sick)
Doctor Brown
Adam Riches
Simon Stephen (for twitter moreso than scripts?)
Daniel Kitson (remembered story from one member of group: he once threw out a heckler early on in a show ('It's a work in progress'/'Well it still better be funny!'), actually giving the heckler £10 - twice what he paid to be there - to fuck off. But then mentioned to the audience ‘that’s all you'll remember about tonight now'. Possible problem of a big - obnoxious - moment overshadowing rest of something)
Sh!t Theatre
High Rise Theatre

(Not theatre/performance but she was mentioned as an example of the positive definition of obnoxiousness early on: Mhairi Black. (supplemented by ‘she knows her shit’)

Something in ‘obnoxiousness’ is directness, bluntness - being straight with people and therefore audiences.

Is there something in the absence of obnoxiousness or sarcasm that's to do with the presence of fear? We back out of bolder decisions for safer ones because of fear?

It was noted that a lot of the examples we could think of lay in comedy, or in crossovers between theatre/live art/comedy/etc (cabaret?).

The idea of polite behaviour and polite spaces came up - we don't think of theatres/theatre buildings as sarcastic or obnoxious places especially, and there's a lot of learned behaviour that results in a more polite attitude/atmosphere within them.

Following question of whether you feel like the work you make isn't polite, yet ends up in contexts/in front of audiences who are.

A story was shared about a Forced Entertainment show where an ‘arts terrorist’, not involved, defecated/took a shit onstage. The company struggled to convince people it wasn't a part of the show - possibly something that can be problematic when you have a certain identity as a company? (And maybe true if that identity were as sarcastic/obnoxious?)

Attempts to list *female* comedians/performers, after it was noted that obnoxiousness in particularly feels like a stereotypically ‘male’ realm:
Adrienne Truscott
Samantha Bee
Amy Schumer
Sarah Silverman
Caitlin Moran
Rachael Clarke (Cuncrete)

The conversation then touched upon ‘female’ obnoxiousness as a very conscious and somewhat political act, but also the issue of whether female obnoxiousness is often linked to sex, and whether that inadvertently becomes a selling point (that, regardless of how it's being talked about/the obnoxiousness/the sarcasm, you're still viewing a woman primarily as a sexual agent/what you're interested in is sex).

Closer Each Day (sometimes in this area - an improvised sitcom/soap opera based in Bristol, going for 5 years)
Book of Mormon (obnoxious/sarcastic both in advertising and content of the show - also mention for South Park and other American animation like Family Guy)

One group member's show involving a ‘Birthday Buzzard’ (someone dressed as an anthro buzzard who knocks on your door on your birthday to essentially give you a Roast) was raised - also mentioned how it was a show about sarcasm which then was presented in a sarcastic/antagonistic way which ended up being ‘like putting butter on a croissant’ - aka too much

If you're not in on the sarcastic joke, then it can feel needlessly confrontational, which is to be avoided.

The question was raised of whether obnoxiousness is to do with confidence and also possibly more of an American trait - or at least that confidence is something we associate more with American-ness than British-ness.

The session also reminded me of a joke company (LEIUKARN - Literally Everyone In UK Arts Right Now), based a lot on sarcasm and obnoxiousness, that myself and a friend imagined. A lot of thoughts about how I have such sarcastic and jokey conversations about theatre but these haven't translated into actual things - but the thoughts and seed ideas *are there*.

(Things I wrote down to myself largely as questions/random thoughts:

Gob Squad?
Sarcasm within Filter ('I'm invisible') and Middle Child ('bark bark fucking bark') shows?
Rob Drummond? (Sarcasm in In Fidelity?)
Youtube videos (impromptu lightsaber street fights?)
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?
BADAC - bad obnoxious?
Action Hero?

Personal note: laughed more in this session than any other this weekend. Really grateful to those who came as it felt so brilliantly lively and full of great suggestions/ideas of what to look at and also what to think about.

We finished the session by telling each other to fuck off. But sarcastically.




Chris Grady

15 January 2017

what an amazing shopping list of shows and artists to see - thanks for that.



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