Nature Imitates Art and Art Imitates Nature
However I only went to see
one show "Armando and Benito", featuring the separated Siamese twins
Armando and Benito. Everybody had been crammed in a small tent, all
staring at a red curtain, emanating from behind it were strange sounds.
What was going on there, we didn't know, the audience sat there waiting
and then it started. The only thing we could see at first was a
hairpiece, quickly a head appeared through the curtain and started speaking.
A strange tale was told,
the man told that he came from a land far far away, a land where nobody
was shocked about a case like his. A peculiar tale unfolded, the head
told the audience that when he was born he split the body of his mother
in half when he rolled out. The curtain opened and a wheelchair with a
man in it appeared on stage. The man in the wheelchair had three legs,
one leg was quickly thrown away. Armando starts talking and as a
professional talker he presents his cast, however, most of his freaks
seemed unavailable, Johnny the rotweiler boy send his cat because he
found a bitch and had started a nice kennel with her, the fat lady and
the giant were also absent, a rather disabled start for this oddity
However there were still
three acts left, Armando, Benito, and Malaria. These three weird
characters will do their thing this evening. Malariais a bearded lady, though
lady is a big word, she's of the female gender but otherwise she has
more in common with an animal. However she can perform, she's a dancer,
and a petomane (Josef Pujol would've been jealous). She's also subjected
to ringleader Armando. Later on in the show Benito is also introduced.
Much to the public's amazement, Benito has no arms, and is under
complete control of Armando. Throughout the show Benito shows in a very
crude and rough way all the things that he can do without arms. Making a
sandwich with his feet, and then offering it to a visitor, playing a pan
flute, who doesn't want the filthy sandwich(made on the floor of the
theatre). He's then dragged on the floor for a box match with Benito and
Benito wins of course. The glove was attached to his head and the victim
had been cuffed. After the show the public left slightly estranged.
I must admit it was a
strange show for me as well as the public, I couldn't really believe it
that two disabled people were performing live on stage, acting as freaks
in a freak show. It was also a powerful play filled with intentional
hyper acting, imagine a rollercoaster ride going down, up and the like.
However the shock effect only lasted a few seconds, but the public was a
tad more estranged. Some just looked with utter shock and some of the
children didn't know how to react. However everyone kept watching, no
one left. Seems that the interest in the show and what "they" could do
was stronger than their "moral consciousness" which told them this can't
be done. A key element in the whole play is humour in all its forms. It
softens and shocks the public making the whole performance "edible".
Armando told me that he was one of 7 children, 5 of which were disabled,
as well his father. Despite the misery, the family laughed a lot. His
mom is his biggest fan, I am her youngest and "snelsten" (most
According to the Director
and writer K.De Poorter the whole play was created on request, the lads
and lasses from Cirq had asked him to do a play featuring freaks.
Instead of watching Carnivale, he decided to surf the internet. The
images gave him the impression of obscenity, affection, and bitter
grief. He wanted to recreate the same atmosphere. He started looking for
the right music and slowly the play was formed. After some try-outs and
conversations with the prime actors, he got the impression that the
midget lady didn't feel at ease in her role, she was replaced by a
different actress, a "normal actress" and this seemed to work more.
However in the past he had already seen Jim Rose as well as the Kamikaz
freakshow. Here he learned that humour can change the way people react
on shocking situations. Though this wasn't the only factor, in his
previous experiences in comedy he had discovered similar material.
The main two actors1,
Armando and Benito, or Armand Vanderschelden (39 years old)
and Yves Vermeulen (23 years), had some previous experiences as actors
in a variety of plays. Yves, a socio-cultural worker, played a role in
"Tram 40" a socio-artistic theatre project and he will also be featured
in a movie from Director Stijn Coninx about the disabled athlete Mark
Herremans. Benito had his doubts about joining the play because he was
afraid of how people would react. However the main aim of Cirq is
entertainment and he likes to entertain. The other main attraction is
Armando; Armando has been working with Cirq for quite some time, in a
variety of plays and has also been
featured in a
TV-documentary. His main job is being an entertainer, his carte de
visite reads as "Armando" full-bled song god. He sings, performs in
plays and gives lectures on coping with disability. Armando says that
for the actors the audience mostly is the main attraction. Yves
mentioned in a newspaper article that "We are not freaks, but we play
freaks, the thin line between reality and fiction can be tricky and
causes heated discussions in the public. Armando however told me that he
is proud to be a "freak". He considers himself as a freak. His favorite
movie is, as you may suspect, "Freaks".
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Imitates Art and Art Imitates Nature
and Malariais a bearded lady
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