As the music starts, it’s a tune that I know – The Spirit of Man, from War of the Worlds. Yes, the classic song that urges a despairing vicar who has given up hope in the face of a martian invasion to trust in humanity. When I first heard this song, I felt a rousing in my heart. I imagined the blood-red skies in an apocalyptic landscape with mechanical Martian structures crushing humans and, with it, our hope. I’d had a few Bacardis but I was far from delusional. Read the lyrics for yourself:
NATHANIEL: Once there was a time when I believed without hesitation
That the power of love and truth could conquer all in the name of salvation
Tell me what kind of weapon is love, when it comes to the fight
And just how much protection is truth against all Satan’s might
BETH: There must be something worth living for
There must be something worth trying for
Even some things worth dying for
And if one man can stand tall
There must be some hope for us all
Somewhere, somewhere in the spirit of man
Okay, so it’s a bit biblical for my liking, but it resonated. I was overcome with the power of insignificance and the magnitude of the universe. And white rum is powerful stuff, I’m telling you. (Click here to listen on Spotify).
Back to the comfy cushioned seat… so my foot starts tapping. It’s War of the Worlds, I cry! How great, that at the Edinburgh Festival, I am seeing a show that involves War of the Worlds, for nothing. A free act that I found by chance.
Imagine my surprise when Beth (the character who urges Nathaniel to not give in) has a quick grope of the vicar’s crotch. It was a slip of the hand, my more prudish side insists to the perplexed perverted one. Oh – there it goes again. It seems this vicar is as randy as a Catholic priest at a school play.
And Beth is now busy massaging her bosom while telling the small (so very, very small) audience about the ‘spirit of man’. Now when I heard that song for the first time, I made the assumption that the spirit of man was a catch-all phrase for humanity (albeit disguised with token sexist terminology). But according to this Beth, Nathaniel’s spirit was bottled up someone down below his belly button. It seemed she had mistaken it for a genie’s lamp.
It was as Beth stripped off her corset to reveal nipple tassles, that I realised no amount of Bacardi was ever going to be enough to reverse this image from my mind.
I can’t really explain how ridiculous this display really was. It was completely dislocated from reality or comedy. It made a mockery of the institution that is War of the Worlds. Imagine porno versions of your favourite songs/films:
– Apocalypse (fuck me) Now
– Schindler’s Fist
– Star Whores
– (Lock) Jaws
It just doesn’t work. It never will.
Needless to say, the night got worse. The next act involved lycra and grown men pretending to be flies and swatting the audience with fly swats – never a crowd pleaser I find, hitting people.
This was followed by the icing on my rotten made-of-shit cake. A Burlesque act. On hearing the words, my girlfriend and mate did a runner to the bar, leaving me to sit back in my booth, like a sleazy motherfucker and watch a woman strip. I had to watch the bags you see. But no-one else knew that. No, the rest of the 12-strong audience glanced at me and thought: she’s loving it, loving it, loving it (cue bad 90s music).
And I really, really, really wasn’t. Not only am I against stripping for the very obvious reason that it degrades women’s bodies to mere objects for (usually) men’s pleasure and nearly always acts as a precursor into selling a body as if it’s a cup of coffee, but I am against it because I don’t find it enjoyable.
I’m sitting and watching a woman remove her clothes in time to music and expected to clap afterwards. Well hey, I hate to ruin the illusion, but rhythm ain’t that hard. Even my washing machine has it. And taking off my clothes? I do it every night. Without any rapturous applause, I might add. The added (more) nipple tassles, feather boa and glitter may as well have been rusty nails in my libido.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking the woman in question. She was attractive and surely confident. But I’m sure as hell that stripping just isn’t an art, no matter how much you gyrate/how far you can bend over/how extreme the pout or how long I have to wait for you remove a thong from up your arse. Critics wouldn’t spend decades debating the merit of the lighting. I wouldn’t take my Mum to see that at the Tate Modern. I wouldn’t buy a print of it from the gift shop. And I wouldn’t put a postcard of the aforementioned arse on my noticeboard above the fridge. It just isn’t art and, glancing at the rest of the audience, most appeared visually uncomfortable.
This kind of stuff isn’t suitable for a comedy/theatre festival. It isn’t an art form, it isn’t particularly funny (if you don’t count the poor performer having to walk butt-naked through the audience when the lights were switched on at the end to the bogs).
There must be something worth living for, Beth told Nathaniel. And I don’t think it’s hard-ons that will be the salvation of humanity…