Shout it from the rooftops: mime is back. We speak to one of the world’s top proponents of the artform.
Ahead of his final show at the Soho Theatre tonight, we had an entertaining chat with Doctor Brown, the mime who so far has three awards under his robe including the top comedy award from last year’s Edinburgh Fringe.
While this highly gifted clown from California has nothing to say for himself on stage, his offstage persona shows that his philosophical and spiritual nature is never far away from his thoughts and actions.
We’ve never seen in any interview where the name Doctor Brown comes from.
And nor will you ever.
Ok, then. What don’t you like about your job?
The industry side of it can distract you from the purity of it.
If you weren’t Doctor Brown what would you be doing?
Probably some form of teaching or working with my hands, with the environment.
I taught Spanish, English and English as a foreign language. I worked in Poland, Italy and California. I was a bicycle tour guide. I had a little stint working in the film industry in LA.
Really? Doing what?
Producing. Whatever I do next has to be fulfilling for me, creatively and artistically.
It is important that you understand this though. It is about fulfilment but I think ultimately it has to be about us, about the world, about humanity, about the environment, about the human species, the survival of the human spirit, the soul.
And all that requires you to work with people and in helping the world. It is not just about making yourself bigger and yourself stronger. That’s a kind of illness that the art industry has taken on. There’s too much me, me, me, about what I want, about getting on television and buying a house. I don’t know if art is meant to have that function. I think it can have the function of helping each other and helping the world.
And I’m not here to help anyone. I need help as much as anyone else though. I think we all need help. We’re all suffering somehow from something.
And how did your kids’ show evolve? Do you have your own children?
I don’t have any kids myself but I do have nephews. I realised at one point that I was pretty much doing a kids show for adults.
Aren’t kids a more difficult audience?
You would think so but less so once you’ve mastered the technique. You have to learn how to get them to sit down and not come on stage. Once you know how to deal with them, compared to adults, kids are really easy because adults are very jaded and want to judge you. Kids, on the other hand, have no judgement.
Talking of family, how hard is your lifestyle on relationships?
These past three or four years that I’ve been on tour, I don’t think I’ve had a girlfriend. I meet women and have relationships with them but they’re all short-lived. I’ve been spiritually unavailable because I’ve been so dedicated to my work and I haven’t had enough psychic space for a real relationship. Now that I can chill out a bit with the work, that space is starting to open up.
What do you think of awards?
They can be dangerous or misleading in the sense that they can make you believe that “you” are the one who did this and “you” are special but that’s not very healthy. They are condusive to selfishness which is a dangerous attitude.
Ultimately art doesn’t have to be selfish. It is meant to heal us and free us and it is not one person that does that. We can all be healers of some sort. I don’t completely live this but I am interested in performing if it can have that function.
Tell us how you won an award as a boylesque dancer?
My friend Spencer Pearce (aka performer Spencer Maybe) encouraged me to enter the Tournament of Tease run by Jayne Hardy at the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club. Initially, I was just going to go on stage, strip and not do anything else. As I was getting ready, someone said I needed a reason to get undressed.
So I put on some googles and a swimcap I had with me and started off by pretending I was on a beach getting ready to go for a swim. I then started taking off my clothes really plainly with no music or anything while playing with the audience using lots of eye contact and awkwardness.
It wasn’t good burlesque. It was purposely bad but very funny. And that’s how I won the award.
So how far did you go? Total nudity?
I didn’t go full frontal, I stopped when I got to my Spiderman briefs.
Would you ever miss not being on a stage?
Without sounding too wanky, dude, you’re on stage when you go to the grocery store and talk to the teller, you’re on stage when you’re sitting on the bus and talking to the person next to you, you’re on stage when you’re with your family, talking to your nephew. I’m always on stage.
Soho Theatre has a bumper line-up of cabaret ahead in the next few months, not least EastEnd Cabaret’s official swansong to many their classics, drag superstar Jonny Woo delves into his childhood and Dusty Limits will be showing off his three-and-a-half octave range in PostMortem. Clue: the show’s about death. Get stuck in.