How does it feel to have made it to the 10th DaDaFest?
It’s amazing – both frustrating and pleasing that it’s taken ten years. Ten years ago I was rapping in Cream for 15 people at the first DaDa and now it’s such a massive event, everyone’s on board, there has been real mainstream interest for the first time. And in that time, a lot of artists have perfected their work and become consummate professionals. I’m having a fantastic time, really enjoying it here.
Why is it only now you feel it’s getting the national recognition it deserves?
The level of exposure we have got is wonderful. We’re still outsiders, but we’re accepted in the mainstream. Maybe we weren’t ready for this success before. It’s like that poem Desiderata, the one that’s usually hanging on your granny’s loo wall, ‘go placidly amid the noise and the haste’… ‘whether or not it is clear to you, the universe is unfolding as it should’. I wish it had been noticed earlier, but maybe it wasn’t time.
Saying that, would the world have been ready for your show, The Freak and the Showgirl, before now? It’s a very funny and political show, but rather extreme.
The show has taken five years of exploration, thinking about how to present it to a non-sideshow audience. Julie comes from that American scene, and I was interested in looking at old fashioned British music hall, with a disabled angle. Julie and me, we both operate in sideshow and burlesque and perform on that punk/ sideshow scene in the US. There are many touring sideshows and they’re very punky, rock ‘n’ roll, often you’ll see them as the support act for rock bands now. And burlesque has just exploded in New York in the last 15 years. So we were both reasonably seasoned performers in our field. This is a polished show, but it’s still something in development really.
You both spend most of the show completely naked. You’re pushing boundaries, but there’s not the feeling you want to offend or isolate the audience with your work.
We want people to be scandalised, yes. Offended, no. Isn’t it Lee Mack that says ‘always saucy, never blue’. I want to be confronational, confront the crap people have to put up with. But we’re both showbiz – we want people to enjoy themselves. Our job is entertainment and giving people value for money and we both have that art and work ethic. On more practical terms, it cost a third of the price of our other show, Beauty and the Beast, which is a huge production, a big theatre show. So it’s a little bit business, too.
It’s nice to see you change the show to work with the audience. In Liverpool for instance, you did a routine wearing nothing but LFC aprons and mop top wigs.
It’s a scary thing to take the piss out of people’s culture but it’s all about doing it with charm, getting people to laugh. Obviously, there are certain things that we would never take the piss out of. We don’t want to be horrible, offensive and nasty, we’re scandalous and sexy and outrageous.
It’s a show that really has a lot to say, particularly about the human body and sexuality. What made you want to stand on stage naked to make your point?
[Laughs] It was more a way of finding ways of allowing us to be naked on stage, because we like being naked. We like to confront our audience with our nude bodies because we don’t think it should be confrontational, it’s a beautiful thing, we are all here because of the sexual act. And if you’ve got a big bum or little flipper hands, that’s great. We are really fighting against the whole size 0 ideal.
It is great to see the work of Julie Atlas Muz [pronounced ‘muse’] in more context. Her burlesque can be very shocking in isolation. It’s nice to see some of the thinking behind it.
We’ve thought about that – how Julie doesn’t have much of a voice that way. I’m the guy who gets to talk a lot and the woman just looks pretty, it’s very easy to fall into that. So you’ve got to be very careful or you’ll just spin it back to the 60s. And that’s no good, because people like me wouldn’t be able to even get into the clubs we play in the 60s, we’d be told we look too horrible. Say what you want about political correctness, it started for a reason. So the last thing we want to do is propagate that for this show. It should be an equal show, with equal amounts of articulation. And equal amounts of flesh being exposed!