It’s not the most obvious globe-straddling hit: three bald, silent, cerulean-coloured men playing PVC instruments on a black stage lit by lasers. But with its hilarious, multisensory, hardly-classifiable show, the Blue Man Group has been enlivening Berlin for more than five years.
We met Pete Starrett, a 10-year veteran who’s performed in Tokyo, Amsterdam, Las Vegas and many other exotic locales.
I’m sure nobody’s ever asked you this before… but why blue?
Blue is such a powerful statement. There’s something about it that allows a neutrality to come through, but also a sort of warmth… It’s difficult to describe.
Blue Men are known for being completely nuts. What do people look for in your shows?
At first, when people walk in, I think they see the image – it’s not a traditional musical. Or maybe they are looking for some sort of altering experience. Some younger people liken it to a drug trip. I would define it as a non-verbal comedy with social commentary. The show draws its inspiration from many different elements: social commentary, art criticism, art, pop culture, rock ‘n’ roll. It has a great mixture of this punk rock willingness to destroy things, but also a sensitivity that’s neither male nor female and works in a very empathetic way.
The Blue Man Group has been performing for almost 20 years, in cities around the world. Is the Berlin show different from the others?
We didn’t want a show that Germans might think of as an imperial American thing – us coming here and putting on our show. We wanted a German show that incorporated elements of Berlin and was, of course, in German. But there are a lot of tourists that come to see us and they just didn’t understand it, so we made it bilingual [English-German]. There are also some little details, like in that section where we have posters with words on them, and we recently added one in Turkish.
But what really sticks, of course, is that ‘blue alien’ image.
We often talk about the make-up as something that covers our faces, but also allows us to pull something off. What I love about the show is that I can come into the theatre after a day of doing many different things, and then I can just step up in front of the audience and communicate with people.
Blue Men don’t talk: it must be hard to communicate with your eyes alone.
It’s hard because I believe that the audience, if they’re looking at you, can see whether you’re being honest or not. So I feel much more naked in this show than I have in others, despite the fact that we’re wearing the make-up.
What was your strangest or worst day as a Blue Man?
One time I had food poisoning. During the show, I started to feel sick to my stomach, I had to run off stage. And then the other two guys – well, I couldn’t communicate, but I was sweating and dripping and I had to leave, so they knew something was wrong. That was probably the most dramatic time. And I had to go to the hospital with this awful blue make- up on. They thought I was a heroin addict!
So not even a Blue Man is impervious to harm.
I’ve had to leave three or four shows because I got hit on the head with something. One time I broke my nose. It can be a dangerous show, so we always have somebody on call…
THE BLUE MAN GROUP | For more information, visit www.blueman.com