The lights delicately frame a man in white face makeup dressed as a spider as he begins to sing. Soon it becomes clear that this is no ordinary performance, but rather a genre-defying, impeccably crafted piece of art.
Since honing his talents in the independent theatre scene of the 1990s, Jon Flynn has continually produced small-scale theatre with an emphasis on wit and the surreal. He retreated to the warmer climes of Spain a few years ago but is making his return to Berlin with The Political Bikini, a new ‘baroque-pop’ show including 12 new pieces and a few classics. EXBERLINER caught up with the English-born, Berlin-made performer as he put the final touches on what might be his final performance.
What was it like to be making your work in Berlin in the early 1990s?
The early days in Berlin were breathtaking and belonged to that golden time post-Wall. The city was alive with possibilities and the fringe theatre scene boomed, especially one-person shows.
I was very lucky to be there at the right time and performed all over the city, varying my experience from performing at the Philharmonie, a great honour, to tRÄNENpALAST to Tacheles to Viktoriapark to a sex club to funerals to almost everything you can imagine. Sometimes good, sometimes not, but it was all terrific training.
What is the aim of your pieces now?
First of all, I hope I can transport people into a different place, whether it be for three minutes or for two hours. I hope that I can give them some magic, because that’s what theatre is for me. I believe in the magic of theatre: the sets, the music, the lights, the costumes. For me it’s a place where you should forget what’s going on outside. If people like music, they like texts, they like to slip away; they’ll enjoy it.
If they like the visual banquet, which my show is, if they like lyricism; they should enjoy it. If they like to have a laugh, and they also like to think, they should enjoy it. But if they’re wanting deep profound theatre, maybe they should go somewhere else.
What was the inspiration for the piece where you’re dressed up as a spider?
I’ve always hated spiders. Once I was sharing a flat with a friend of mine in London and he started screaming, as big men do, “Ah! There’s a big spider! There’s a big spider!” And then it became an issue of what we should do with the spider. And he said to me, “Yes, but if we throw him out the window, then probably we’ll be attacked by thousands of man-eating spiders.” This quote stayed in my brain for some years. So I just wrote the piece about Samuel the spider who fell into the bathroom and how a spider would get his revenge. Never kill a spider. That’s the message. And I have never killed a spider since.
Since that moment in London or since writing the piece?
Ever since I have been a spider myself, I have never killed a spider.