Red Bastard | Review by Steve Bennett © Jeffrey Bernhaut
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Red Bastard

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Steve Bennett

Provocative audience participation is in vogue, thanks to the likes of Dr Brown and Adam Riches – and Red Bastard is right up there with the best of them, with a deliciously impish twist of his own.

First up, he’s a visual treat, white-faced and dressed in tight red lycra stuffed with mini Space Hoppers. He’s as proud of his balloon butt as the randiest female baboon in heat, waggling it proudly for all to admire, sometimes at very close quarters, with a lascivious glint in his eye to match.

For he’s no less than the devil incarnate. Seductive, mischievous, manipulative and charismatic, he gets inside your mind and cajoles you down a path that may lead to hell or to redemption, not that he cares which. As long as he can have his sport with the playthings otherwise known as ‘the audience’, he will be sated.

He takes it that we have all come to learn at his cloven feet, adopting the techniques of the shaman to get us to open up, to question our lives, to challenge authority – but never his own, that is absolute. You must obey his precise rules, like a despotic game of Simon Says, or face the consequences of evoking his displeasure.

Initially, this isn’t too challenging. We gaily strike poses and scamper around the Bosco tent as he compels us to do, like children at play. But gradually he scratches a little deeper, asking us increasingly less comfortable questions about the choices we’ve made in life. He wants us to carpe the diem a bit more, and screw the ramifications. Timidity and trying to accommodate others never won the day.

It’s an exhilarating journey, thanks to an ever-present sense of danger. The smooth old Bastard seems to know exactly where everyone’s line of comfort is, and pushes the envelope over it a little more each time, just enough to get a frisson, but not quite enough to make it genuinely awkward. I, myself, bottled out of a challenge, and received an entirely appropriate reprimand: that I be cursed by a life of unhappiness.

This is such a fantastic display of crowd work, that even a verbose smart-arse in tonight’s show can’t disrupt. ‘Where are you from?’ pipes up the cocky one, breaking a moment of silence. After fixing him with a steely stare that would have Malcolm Tucker blubbing to his mum, Red Bastard deadpans: ‘The collective unconscious.’ He is the nagging voice inside us, the demon on our shoulder, made flesh.

Eric Davis, the American beneath the lycra, is a mesmerising performer; a bold physical clown with a glance that convey anything and an absolute command of the space and his audience. He harnesses his power to create a show where the magical could happen, or possibly the depraved. Whatever, it will be a unique, memorable experience.

Review date: 3 Aug 2013
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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