October 01, 1988

Fragile Eggshell Mind

Filed under: Archive,Comedy

Paul Livingstone
Club Foote

A heavily padded overcoat walks into the spotlight. Gradually a small pale pate appears above the collar, two piercing eyes sweep the room. A pair of binoculars extends from the lower reaches of the coat and continues the surveillance. Then, although not convinced it is safe to, the inhabitant bursts free of the coat and there, in a black leotard with a Union flag loincloth tied to an animal pelt that looks like it has been peeled off the Hume Highway, stands Flacco, late 20th century existential person-poet, – metaphysician, raconteur and serious paranoid.

He tells us that in bed he daren’t roll over for fear of endangering the many tiny species which suck and bite and drink his blood. His room is so damp that instead of sheep he counts slugs. He rolls first one eye, then the other as he traverses the movement of the slug. The very obviousness of the joke makes it paralysingly funny.

Flacco recalls his childhood in Zetland and reproduces “the sweat saturated symphony of sex” which conceived him, by pulling at his face and rattling his wattles in ecstasy. We learn of his mother, the surrealistic home-maker and his Scottish Uncle Ray, who makes him wear the funny skirt with the dead cat on it and whose harsh brogue metamorphoses into a chirruping telephone which Flacco wears, along with countless other apparatus, hanging from his belt.

It is a cruel world, Flacco tells us, and when small boys gathered around him to see who could get most fist into his oesophagus, it was a cruel playground. “I stood trembling in my Bata Scouts,” he -remembers. He does impressions. A length of curly hair becomes a moustache… for Dennis Lilley, for John Newcombe, for Mike Gibson and then, just to make a shaggy joke even shaggier, for Sport in General. The asides, sight gags, heaving puns and aphorisms all thread effortlessly as Flacco furiously extemporises, pausing – sometimes endearingly, sometimes querulously – for audiences to catch up.

Flacco first performed in Adelaide during the 1986 Fringe when his alter ego, Paul Livingstone, took time out from Even Orchestra manouevres to introduce him into society. At that time Flacco was a nervy emigre swigging on a baby’s bottle of Ribena and announcing “I am a river to my people.” He also carried an alarm clock and talked incessantly about cockroaches. Beckett came to-mind, so did Kafka, and Milligan.

With his new material Livingstone is more whimsical and accessible. When Flacco visits Hell it is like a very artful Pee Wee Herman’s Inferno. The similarities with Herman are marked but never derivative. Flacco meets Shakespeare in Hell, as well as Rudyard Kipling, Sylvester Stallone and Buddy Holly. Flacco contains multitudes. As Buddy Holly he bursts into a gurgling rendition of Peggy Sue – “That’s the way he sounds, Buddy Holly, when he’snot plummeting earthwards in a twin-engined Cessna.”

Flacco certainly knows that nothing human or mortal is foreign to the comedian. “I am a flyspeck on the piecrust of humanity,” he remarks matter-of-factly, “A gadfly on the corpse of Tragedy.” Now that Even Orchestra, with its quirky mix of animated movies and live soundtrack, is no more, the talented Livingstone is out on his own. He has been performing around Sydney mostly, in between writing material and working in film. He has recently been nominated for an AFI Best Supporting Role in Vincent Ward’s The Navigator.

Club Foote has again done well in bringing Flacco into our grey lives. He’s due back in town early next year. You’d be a fool to yourself if you missed him.

“Fragile Eggshell Mind” The Adelaide Review, No.56, October, 1988, pp.26-7.

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