Nathan Lang has lived in the UK for ten years now. He made his career debut as Pinhead in the Australian soap Neighbours.
“I have forgotten,” I told Nathan,” why we are chatting. Am I meeting you to plug your Edinburgh Fringe show?”
“I thought you were more interested,” said Nathan, “in my juicy gossip about losing my Edinburgh Fringe venue twice… You saw One Man, Two Ghosts last year.”
“Oh yes,” I said. “And you were going to bring it back again this year. Three of you. Different cast.”
“We were promised a good time-slot at a venue in the New Town,” explained Nathan. “The management had seen the show last year and loved it. But then, around the time of early bird Fringe registration, the management changed; and the programming changed; and we lost the venue; and it lost us £100 because we missed the cheap deadline.
“Then we got in touch with someone who had also seen the show last year, loved it and was starting up a new venue. She asked us immediately before the final Fringe Programme deadline and the venue just fell through. Everyone has a different story why. I’m not blaming anyone. Just bad luck. A few shows in that venue got re-homed; some collapsed; we got a very good offer from Bob Slayer but couldn’t do it because it clashed with my other two shows. So the three of us decided not to do the show. There seemed no point compromising on a less good venue at bad times on scattered dates.”
“You still have two other shows at the Fringe?” I asked.
“Yes, there’s the sketch comedy show Jon & Nath Like To Party which you saw an early incarnation of. We’ve been previewing it for a year and had a very good Brighton Fringe.”
“What’s different from the version I saw?”
“The crap sketches have gone and been replaced by good ones. It’s really good now.”
“Sketch comedy is dead,” I suggested.
“No!” said Nathan. “There’s lots of exciting sketch comedy on the scene at the moment. It’s evolving beyond that episodic kind of style. It’s blurring into alternative stuff and character stuff. What has changed in our show since you saw it is we now have an underlying kind of…”
“No. An underlying thread where we can communicate our selves and our relationship – the way we constantly try to thwart each other.”
“What’s the stage relationship?”
“We’re like brothers but we antagonise the hell out of each other and disagree about everything.”
“And your other show is?”
“My first solo show. The Stuntman. Surely, with that title alone, I should be eligible for a Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award?”
“But is it cunning?” I asked. “Do you do your own stunts? Is there an imminent risk of death? Death is always good for promoting a show.”
“Yeah,” said Nathan. “I do my own stunts. I am the Tom Cruise of clowning character physical comedy.”
“Hanging on the side of a plane?” I asked.
“Hanging drunkenly on the side of the bar while my own wind blows my feet up. It’s slapstick. It’s What if the stuntman were always a stuntman, even at home? But family friendly. Well, it is now. Except for the bit where I pretend to be nude for ten minutes.”
“But is there a potential death factor?” I asked.
“One stunt went too far the other night,” said Nathan. “The toothpick stunt.”
“The toothpick stunt?” I asked.
“The toothpick stunt. I impaled my head on a toothpick and, when I pulled it out, the red red krovvy started to flow. Half the audience were delighted; the other half were horrified.”
“Krovvy?” I asked.
“Haven’t you read A Clockwork Orange?”
“Print is dead,” I said. “I’ve only seen the film.”
“You don’t know Nadsat?”
“Let’s get back to The Stuntman,” I said. “What’s the elevator pitch?”
“Evel Kneivel meets Wile E Coyote in Technicolor.”
“With deep canyons to fall down?”
“Not on this budget.”
“Why The Stuntman?”
“Because I really wanted to do a one-man show and it came about through Dr Brown’s clown workshops.”
“Tell me you’ve not been to Gaulier,” I pleaded.
“I’ve not been to Gaulier,” repeated Nathan. “And that makes me feel insecure.”
“But you have done clowning workshops?”
“Yes. In a Spymonkey workshop, Aitor Basauri told me: Nathan. A clown costume for you, you need three things. Hair slicked back. Outfit very tight to your body. And heavy boots. Aitor is so amazing. He’s such a brilliant clown. Spymonkey are my idols – my clown idols.”
“Is he Hungarian?” I asked.
“Why does not having gone to Gaulier make you feel insecure?”
“Because he and his style are exalted and to be Gaulier-trained seems to me to be the pinnacle of clowning tuition. And also I can’t afford it.”
“It seems to me,” I suggested, “like people go to France, get insulted by Gaulier every day, then come back to Britain, sit on a stage a stare at people until something happens. I could do that.”
“I did Dr Brown’s Clowning in Nature in Wales,” said Nathan. “That was great.”
“Arranged by Adam Taffler?”I asked.
“What is Adam doing now?” I asked. “Last time I met him, he seemed to be organising a sex orgy with philosophical undertones on top of a skyscraper in Docklands.”
“I think there was an Intimacy Convention,” said Nathan.
“That’ll be it,” I said. “I’m still not clear why you decided on a stuntman character.”
“I thought being a stuntman would be playing against type.”