Much More than an Absurdity in a Bathtub

It’s complicated. Trinculo is based on a 400 year old character from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”. He is more than 400 years old and has moved from being an idiot fool to that of a pseudo-wise licensed fool taking on Enlightenment values and philosophy but with a penchant for assuming the spirit of Marat from the French Revolution. Weird? Yep.

Oh … and he awaits for the arrival of Charlotte Corday to arrive and stab him to death while in his bathtub!

For nearly five years, Trinculo has been an altar ego; a benign though sometimes dangerous obsession performing for alternative crowds in theatres, abandoned shopfronts, bars and even in a school. The almost naked sight of a fat man with wings sitting in his bathtub offering pseudo-wise bullshit drawing loosely on Enlightenment era philosophy has haunted Canberra at carefully arranged times since 2012. So the question is “why bother?”

THE ABSURDITY PRINCIPLE

For 22 years, Shadow House PITS has appeared as a kind of cockroach at the table of Canberra’s cultural table offering. Through a website, at one stage rivalling that of The Street Theatre (a state subsidised and supported establishment) and occasional productions and joint ventures (eg. with KREWD, SOUND AND FURY, The Actors Company, DTC and Acoustic Theatre) Shadow House PITS has been the ultimate Don Quixote of delusional theatre offensive against the monstrosity of cultural windmills of theatre complacency. And its drawing of a “who cares” reaction from the establishment and other companies more inclined to present ghost replicas of the 1950s/1960s vision of what a theatre might be like has not deterred Trinculo, nor his Shadow House PITS theatre, in his obscene and irrelevant bathtub. Perhaps that is the point of delusion; one takes no notice of the obvious and general consensus of what is acceptable and sane! The absurdity of Trinculo in his bathtub perhaps more than anything else perpetuates the proliferation of the cockroaches that scramble on the tables of acceptable culture for crumbs of nourishment and even admonishment. While mostly ignored, he is still here.

And so to the Rhinoceros of Ionesco’s deepest fears and the shadow it casts on the decaying remnants of a once vibrant and alive theatrical cultural acid that truly burned its way into the psyche! Why is it that while looking around at one’s colleagues in the theatrical mix I am seeing the faces of the rhinoceros passively grazing and looking back with callous disregard. The seduction of government money and inducements to offer sanitised mediocrity that seeks to please and placate the ideology of the times and the narcissus of the public perception has reduced our theatre to that of the primary school concert offering platitudes to immature and helpless emotionalism.

Our society is too afraid to take on the fears and issues of the era through live theatre expression. It is more inclined to attack the Charlie Hebdo employees than the perpetrators of their murder. It is afraid to offend the cohort that supports the vanity and narcissism of weak and fragile minds who occupy the position of artist in a declining civilization that can no longer defend its precepts. It is afraid to embrace diversity and competing world views as part of a dialectic.

So Trinculo embraces the absurdity principle; the absurdity of all belief as delusion and all certainty as a strait-jacket. It makes no difference if he is alive or a ghost; a demon or an angel. He is simply a theatrical device; a consciousness born of all the absurd certainties offered by belief systems and advocates of belief systems going back hundreds of years. And the ultimate absurdity is the knowledge of his irrelevance … and his defiance of that fact in his certainty that Charlotte Corday will one day come and kill him … a fact of the ultimate orgasmic anticipation!

In his death and recreation, Trinculo is the cultural cockroach. He draws nourishment from the pits of the Shadow House and its ghosts of theatres past. He still hears the howls from an Antonin Artaud in extreme psychological pain and physical suffering! He feels and is ashamed he can’t take on the cross of that man of the past cruelty. Yet he understands the fate of all who venture into the realms of the theatrical and cultural psyche. It is terror and he wonders if he is really up to it; and he shirks the journey and feels the need for the bathtub as if it were a womb.

Theatre works on the basis of dreams and the half formed imaginings of artists and audiences. When it tries to be logical and fit the dominant ideologies of the times, it might achieve success and acceptance. But ultimately, it destroys its own necessity. There are other forms of expression that can do this better. Allow theatre the space to be a vehicle for the absurd; for the howl of Artaud and the logic of a man in a bathtub thinking he is an angel or demon. Let the images of Western military hegemony be embodied in the posing of bodies from Abu Graib; let the murder of artists by religious thugs be seen for what it is … the fanciful dreams of delusional maniacs! And let the theatre draw the puss of all such insanity from each member of the audience who is at once dabbling with the mask of the rhinoceros …

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