A Local Show for Local People

Richard Cuming has been asked to write a chapter for an edited book  Alternative Comedy Now and Then: Critical Perspectives (edited by Oliver Double and Sharon Lockyer; due for publication July 2021 by Palgrave.)  A Local Show for Local People will discuss the cabaret nights which took place intermittently at the Tower Arts Centre in Winchester, Hampshire between 1981-1985. 

Performers included Winchester based Attic Theatre, visual performance company Forkbeard Fantasy, and clowns Zippo and Company.  The chapter will consider the content of the acts, which ranged across circus, performance poetry, clowning, mime, impro, stunts and rock music. 

Richard performed in several of them as different comic characters, including a parody punk poet, Rancid Raving Richard, whose poem, Blank Verse for Blank Minds will be deconstructed as part of the chapter. 

Whilst the burgeoning London-based alternative comedy circuit was a reference point, what was distinctive was that the spaces of the Tower were key, as acts performed across the entire venue, including the car park outside.  Little archival material of the cabarets exists so the chapter will draw on Richard’s own memories and those of others who were there at the time, as well as press cuttings of the shows. 

Richard uses ‘performance archaeology’ as a method, proposed by Michael Pearson and Michael Shanks in their book Theatre/Archaeology (2001), in which they reconstruct previous performances. from the sketchy documentation, forgotten and disputed histories, and remaining faint traces of those performances.