Dicky Beau: An interview

PS Ferns

Author of the YA Fantasy series 'The Element Order'
Choreographer and Artistic director of dance company 'The House of Cards'
Artistic Director and Principle of Akademix dance company and academy

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‘Sublime’, ‘funny’, ‘moving’, ‘tragic’: some of the words critics have used to describe Dicky Beau. About to go on tour with Camp, I managed to catch a quick interview with the man himself.

Before we talk about Camp, I wanted to talk to you a little bit more about your career. In recent works, there is nostalgia from light entertainment that we used to see. How is your work influenced by that?

I have a reputation with nostalgia – it’s very powerful. It connects people with emotions. Light entertainment is often quite queer and appears even in rather conservative areas. Even back then there was a perception that ‘things aren’t the way they used to be’.

I have spent a lot of my life looking to the future. I remember feeling nostalgic before I left the moment. It has to do with capitalism – we are always grasping for more, we need to be doing and getting more because we are not enough. That is also the message given through advertising and the media: consume and consume in order to be enough.

Your first major solo theatre show Blackouts featured never-before-heard audio footage of Marilyn Monroe’s last interview. How did this come about?

I discovered the tapes existed, so I tracked down the guy who had interviewed Marilyn. After some communication I visited him and eventually he let me use the material. I did get to know him a little bit and in a funny kind of way, the gold in the final piece was his voice and not Marilyn’s.

Quite often, I have found more of an interest in people who keep archives and who collect. It is sometimes they and not the artists they have interviewed I find more interesting.

How did your involvement with Camp begin?

I have performed in Camp before at the Roundhouse. It has been a shapeshifting show over its time. Scottee, the producer, has put together a line-up for this tour he feels is best for its message.

I have known Scottee for years. The first time I met him was at Cock in Soho. He was underage and performing there. He sang ‘Razzle Dazzle’ from Chicago. I thought it was brilliant and I told him.

Even though we have both carved our own performance paths, we have remained friends ever since.

What do you feel the public’s perception of camp is now compared to the times of, say, Kenneth Williams?

I think audiences get camp innuendos more now. We are in a society that has moved forward and embraced areas like gay marriage. There is a more mainstream understanding.

I do a Kenneth Williams lip-sync in the show. Surprisingly, if you look back, there was more subversion in camp even as recently as 20 years ago – just look at Channel 4 20 years ago and today. Compared with now, they were braver, more daring.

Somehow, we have moved forward, maybe we are more perceptive in some ways, but in other ways, we have regressed. Some things are more off-limits now than back then.

The function of an artist is to be the outsider and to offer perspectives not everyone else has considered. However, art has become a commodification. The cultural role of an artist has diminished in the same way an outsider has, in some ways.

Without sharing too much, can you tell us a little about your performance in Camp?

As I said earlier, I do a Kenneth Williams lip sync. I physicalise his voice in a way that is not to impersonate him but more like a dance with his voice wriggling inside me. There is a queen’s speech too.

Both of these elements are fun, but the queen’s speech has a bit of a message that I feel is appropriate to the time where Terence McKenna, an advocate of magic mushrooms, felt that to achieve a speedy enlightenment we needed hallucinogenics as a species. My piece does not go into that but it talks about unity in a human sense.

Camp opens in St. Helens on 4 December. For tickets, please visit campery.co.uk

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