David Zampatti stuck it out long enough to find the gems amid the noise and fury of Tomás Ford’s Fringe show.
Tomás Ford: Have a Bath with Me?, Tomás Ford ·
Hat Trick, The Woodside Pleasure Garden, 29 January, 2021 ·
There’s a popular expression in football commentary these days, the “chaos ball” (as you’d expect, the Americans have their own version, the “Hail Mary pass”). Call it what you will, it simply means that when all else fails, kick or throw the thing as far down the field as you can and see what happens.
It’s a reasonable analogy for a Tomás Ford entertainment, never more so than in his latest little ray of mayhem, Have a Bath with Me?.
It’s a pointedly take-it-or-leave-it approach. At a rough guess, 20 per cent of the audience at the show I attended chose the latter, but for those who saw out the hour in his company, there were some rewards in among the noise and fury that is his nervously broken-down performance style.
One was a delicious rumba called Canberra 2020, about finding yourself in the nation’s capital during last year’s bushfires. That was the closest things got to something you’d take your auntie to.
The rest involved seeing how many carrots Ford could jam into his mouth, bunny-hopping up and down the aisle in a plastic infant’s paddling pool (the bath of the title), asking to be touched by blue balloon hands passed around by his stage managers (his son and the talented, enthusiastic urchin, Jamie Mykaela), leading some demented audience responses, and inviting a heckler to leave in two choice one-syllable words. All accompanied by some highly unconvincing costume changes and a great deal of sweat.
Under all this is a manic audio-visual track splicing Ford’s own beats with snippets of borrowed music (including the opening of Laurie Anderson’s O Superman which, sadly, submerged into the general cacophony) and some rough-hewn animation thrown on two hastily erected screens.
It’s sometimes hard to hear properly, let alone to fathom.
Now, Ford is an imposing figure, even with his solid flesh looking about to melt, and he’s got quite a face, and quite a voice, and something like a vision, so it’s tempting to wonder why he’s using these assets to concoct up a mess like this.
But that might be doing him an injustice. There’s something nostalgic about his performance, harking back to the grand old late-60s and early 70s days of agitprop, to bands like The Fugs, to the Electric Cool-Aid Acid Test, the Merry Pranksters and the peppery insurrections of guerrilla theatre.
Tomás Ford, bless him, is a Yippie.
Pictured top: An imposing figure – Tomás Ford in ‘Have a Bath with Me?’ Photo: Jamie Mykaela
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