I’ll admit it; I’m a bit of a Kid Carpet fan girl. Usually though my own little groupies have accompanied me to the theatre to see him, as I have only ever seen Ed Patrick aka Kid Carpet in shows for children. I’ve always liked the cut of his jib; he is one of those rare performers that manages to have the kids in fits of giggles as well as the grown ups. Last nights offering The Castle Builder at The Trinity Centre in Bristol was the first show of his I’ve seen that was just for the adults, and I was looking forward to seeing how his unique style translated into grown up theatre! The Trinity Centre is a great venue that I had not visited before. As we took our seats, Kid Carpet and Vic were milling about, chatting to the audience and making us all feel at home. Its fairly intimate sized auditorium, and it felt a little bit like we were about to watch a couple of mates performing. I was thoroughly looking forward to the show.
The Castle Builder is part of the Mayfest season, which brings new, edgy and interesting theatre to different venues all over Bristol throughout May. In this show, Kid Carpet is joined by Vic Llewellyn, a veteran street performer, puppeteer and actor who he met whilst they were working together on the 2013 Tobacco Factory Christmas show The Lost Present. In 2006, Vic was working in Norway, and was told the true story of a psychiatric patient who spent 5 years building an extraordinary castle in the local landscape. Inspired by this tale, Vic and Ed started talking about writing a show based on the Norwegian story. Their research led them to other stories of amazing people who devoted their lives to creating fantastical structures, living their lives on the outer limits of creativity and building regulations.
Kid Carpet performed pretty much in the same way he does at gigs aimed at kids. I liked this; I’ve always felt like he isn’t trying to talk down to them or try hard to get on their level, he just naturally manages it and it translates fine into a show for adults. There is his usual mix of live music played on ridiculous instruments, projection onto a large screen and plenty of daft props. Vic has a similar way about him, he is likeable, knowledgable about the subject and just as funny. The show is silly, surreal and it certainly doesn’t take itself too seriously. One thing I wasn’t expecting from it though was quite how much it would inspire me and my creative spirit. Vic and Ed believe that these outsider artists were magnificent humans, and that maybe we are all a little bit like them, or should strive to be even a little bit as excellent. The show encourages the audience to make something, to leave their mark on the world with art or music that speaks to the heart. The people who feature in the stories were often seen as the ‘mad’ ones, but Vic and Ed tell their tales with almost reverence, despite the silliness. Karl Genzel was a schizophrenic outsider artist who made the most incredible and obscene sculptures using chewed up bread. His doctor eventually encouraged him to move into woodwork! Genzel was one of the artists whose work featured in a Nazi propaganda art exhibition in 1937, which showed modern abstract artists work juxtaposed against the work of mental patients in a bid to undermine and denigrate the work of the respected abstract painters. Vic and Ed believe all this did was to highlight that ALL the work was amazing, and should be celebrated. So many names were mentioned, so many wonderfully eccentric people making their mark on the world. Tressa Prisbrey started building a “village” of shrines, walkways, sculptures, and buildings from recycled items and discards from the local landfill. She began her labour of love in her 60’s; eventually it housed her collection of bottles. All one and a half million of them. Helen Martins started filling the house and garden of her parents house with sculptures after they died. She had nearly 300 in the end, and the house was a vision of elaborate decoration. Raymond Isidore started decorating his house with mosaic. He never stopped, finding his inspiration in dreams. All of the stories were outlandish, all of the people put a smile on my face.
This show is a real celebration of humans, their eccentricities and their spirit. I hope this show keeps on touring, as it really is delightful. If you like your theatre to be serious and with gravitas then this is probably not for you. I however loved it, I was touched, moved and I also giggled. A lot.
On for one more night only at The Trinity Centre, and tickets should be available on the door. You really should see it if you are in the area.
Review by Karen Blake