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How to survive Red Bastard’s show

Devilish comedy monster Red Bastard amuses, thrills, utterly terrifies and could even change your life. We talk to Eric Davis, the man behind the make-up, about being bastardised

© Justin Bernhaut
‘You go into a room, you meet this monster,’ explains performance artist/comedian Eric Davis, the creator of rotund, unitarded beast Red Bastard. ‘He’s dangerous and seductive, and at the beginning it’s all fun and games. But there’s a point where there’s potential for the show to become very, very interesting…’

‘Interesting’ is putting it lightly. I won’t reveal exactly what happens in Red Bastard’s show, which gained nine five-star reviews at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe. But what does, or can, happen is totally up to you, the audience, and how far you’re willing to go. Through provocative audience-interaction Red Bastard gets inside your mind to help unlock your true desires, fears and ambitions. Sound scary? At times it’s petrifying, but you’ll be laughing too, either at his biting wit or through sheer nervousness.

But behind the aggressive bravado Red Bastard is a sheep in wolf’s clothing, asking us to question our own lives. Bear these three tips in mind and you’ll soon be embracing your inner bastard.

Come with an open mind

Red Bastard just wants to play, and a lot of the show is just plain silly. ‘Sometimes you’re going to feel ridiculous,’ explains Davis, ‘sometimes somebody else is going to feel ridiculous. But we’re all just playing and talking, ultimately.’ Come with expectations that anything could happen and embrace whatever does transpire.

Do what he tells you

At a Red Bastard show audience members aren’t just passive observers. You will be asked, quite forcefully, to collaborate, contribute and complete tasks, under an ever-present threat of danger. If nobody plays along ‘the show still goes on’, says Davis, ‘but the tone of it is different. It’s less fun. Most of the time the audience are totally there, it’s wild. But if I have a quieter audience I think: somebody will get something out of this show, whether I see it happen at the gig, or if they do something on their own afterwards. Even if every single audience member went “eugh!” and it was a tough show, then it would be me that got something out of it.’

Remember, he’s a softie really

‘It’s a game,’ says Davis. ‘I create a space for people to look at things and contemplate what it’s like to stay where they are, or the possibility – the scary possibility, often – of what it’s like to move into new territory. That’s the heart of the show. It’s not to break people, it’s not to scare, it’s not to truly terrify. Think of it like a rollercoaster: sometimes it’s thrilling, sometimes it’s scary, sometimes you’ll be laughing, sometimes you’ll feel like pissing your pants. It can be intimidating but, for me, it’s a beautiful fucking thing.’