action hero news

Feb and March gigs
February 17, 2011, 1:31 pm
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Live Art Tattoo Parlour – ICA, London 24th – 26th Feb

Frontman – Fierce Festival, Birmingham 24th March

Watch Me Fall Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Wales 29th-30th March


Frontman at Inbetween Time, Bristol

So Frontman is almost finished. Our first showing will be at IBT on 4th December at 9:30pm

Its going to be at Circomedia, and we spent a day there last week setting up and playing with the space and the sound and it got us really excited. The piece has been on a really interesting journey and we’re really intrigued to see what happens when it meets an audience. Unlike our previous two shows our works in progress haven’t really revealed much of what will happen on the 4th Dec so a lot of it remains terrifyingly unknown but we think we’ve made the show we set out to make so we’ll have to just wait and see….

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we’ve experimented with some sound technology which we’re now excited about unleashing, its very simple use of some pretty lofi sound tech and an analogue synth but its something completely new to us! The performance will take place on a small bit of staging made from steel deck surrounded tightly by audience on three sides with Gemma spending most of her time up there with just a mic and some tambourines for company and me controlling the sound from behind. We’ve just got two weeks now to pull it all together and our focus is now on nurturing the meanings that have evolved from what we’re doing and refining the relationship between us and our audience in relation to that. So lots of working through the text and the staging and drawing out exactly what we want from the performance. I’ve also got to finalise which bits of wire plug in where and which nobs need twiddling when, and Gemma’s got a lot of text to memorise……

…..but tickets are available now so if you want to join us on the opening night then be sure to book

Frontman at Forest Fringe Edinburgh

As part of our Frontman process we’ll be showing some ideas we’re working on at Forest Fringe

Tuesday 17th Aug at 4pm

Its part of the festival of secrets so its not in the programme.

See you there!

and don’t forget you can see us performing ‘A Western’ at Kilkenny Arts Festival wed 11th and thur 12th Aug

and at The Tobacco Factory in Bristol on 18th, 19th + 20th September

upcoming performances

A Western

11th and 12th AugustKilkenny Festival, Kytelers Inn, Ireland at 6:30pm, doors open 6pm

13th, 14th and 15th SeptemberTobacco Factory bar, Bristol

18th, 19th and 20th OctoberOxford Playhouse, Angel and Greyhound pub, St Clements Street 19:30pm

Watch Me Fall

16th NovemberJunction, Cambridge

11th DecemberMade in Britain, St Etienne

Making Frontman
June 2, 2010, 3:24 pm
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images by Finlay of Robertson

We see Frontman as the third piece in a series that started with A Western and continued with Watch Me Fall.

This is not for purposes of creating a ‘package’, but more an attempt to finish something we started. Watch Me Fall when it was finished  felt to us like a development of both the forms and themes we were exploring in A Western but not the final word. With Frontman we want to take these thoughts, ideas and expressions to their inevitable conclusion.

We’re still explorating notions of the ‘spectacular’ or the ‘epic’ and what can be achieved with a raw aesthetic and the collaboration of an audience. The attempt to create something that is emotional, challenging, threatening and beautiful, with cliché, banality and popular culture references. We will continue to borrow our form and content from live events outside of theatre and live art contexts, we will use verbatim text, we will continue to ask the question ‘what are our audience willing to do?’

Our starting points were:

  • Japanese noise bands
  • Frontmen
  • U.S presidents
  • The band ‘Lightning Bolt’ (particularly the track 2 morro morro land)
  • The audience standing in a circle around a solo performer (probably female)

Our current interests are:

  • The effects of volume on an audience
  • Smoke and lights
  • Noise as torture
  • Distortion
  • Iggy Pop

Frontman will premiere in December 2010 at IBT festival in Bristol.

writing on ‘A Western’ by Kate Charles
May 25, 2010, 6:23 pm
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‘This is the scene where…’

Action Hero have the ability to transcend their environment through the invigorating and infectious nature of their performance. Gemma Paintin and James Stenhouse who constitute the compact company sustain a beautiful chemistry, which enriches a performance that is essentially physical, and contains sparse words. These two solitary bodies evoke a roomful of excitable communal tension. The sense of communication attained, within both company and between audience and company, is so strong that you would be hard pushed to notice that there is in fact no dialogue. The calm and wry voice of the narrator punctuates the action laconically. This voice, sometimes Stenhouse and sometimes Paintin, introduces each scene as if recounting a film seen and dissected to the point of estrangement.

In contrast the shared physicality of the two is immediate and expressive. This proves to be integral within a disparate setting, – audience scattered around the dusty, warmly lit old church hall, all bare wood and well-worn equipment. We are up above the Forest’s other performance area that is half café half anything you please, taken up by the wide curve of a grand staircase and asked to sit wherever we fancy. (You could not have a setting that spoke more of being treasured and used, with fanciful designs painted on many walls and table surfaces.) Rather than its being an obstacle, they make recourse to the casual seating; moving round our tables and chairs, slamming doors, crashing off bicycles, tumbling down stairs, shooting, being shot at, and chaotically up turning card tables.

‘Please laugh in a malevolent manner if you are ‘a baddie’’, Stenhouse directs us, ‘That is, if you’re Mexican, Asian…’ and the list goes on until it transpires, ‘In fact, if you’re anything other than white, American, and male’, and most of the audience is chuckling wickedly in performance and in appreciation. Alongside laughter there is certainly a sense of unease. It is palpable that the audience is unsure from moment to moment whether to laugh, sympathize, whether to call out and join in, or maintain a reverent quiet, as the quality of the telling is teasingly undecided. This is theatre in its socially involved state, which Peter Brook might commend: theatre as a risky evolving thing that does not tell you how to react.
Action Hero question epic presentation and narrative. In doing so the performance touches on the nature of aspiration and scale, the smallness of the individual, the little and screamingly large bizzarities that go ignored in genre, stories about the sexes and sex. Gemma pushes a glass filled with water into the hand of a male audience member and stands intently facing him. She nods, he hesitates, she nods again insistently, and the man (partly in his role as spectator and part of the segment of theatre that is subject to the manipulation of the performers) is complicit in chucking water all over her face and front. Gemma doesn’t flinch but pauses, smiles and looks down at her wet prairie dress. The hero coyly refuses to be handed his drink, but insists through gestures and looks that the barman slides it to him, as the genre denotes.

The artful and mute movement establishes an offbeat, highly absorbing rhythm. The repeated occurrences, motif scenes, succeed in punctuating and structuring the performance by altering as the show itself builds. Ketchup is squirted on the whore’s dress the first time she dies ‘a slow and painful death’, and a second, and a third, until she’s scarlet sauce coated. What is evidently artifice is not denied by realistic props but celebrated until so explicit it is no longer artifice. Instead, the feelings of tragedy, hilarity, prejudice and eroticism, which are implied and elided in a traditional Western (including of course the perception of its own surreality and silliness,) are here smeared all over the surface like the ketchup.
Yet it is not all wry critique of an American genre. The sincere voice of the company is also present and expressing a certain wistfulness. As the Western trills out to the usual Morreconi noodles we’re told how the performers long for great stage sets, stunning effects, thousands of horses and hot sandy winds. The sensation easily achieved by these unattainable things must be worked for craftily outside of the mainstream; and what is created is a more complex accessible thing. Despite their apparent longing, Action Hero realize that what starts as restrictive necessity can be acted upon and transformed to become enabling, even desirable.

Being placed in a position of minority or difficulty turns out to be an integral theme then. Making this show most memorable is its sensation of uncertainty. Audience members are no longer safely concealed sitting in the dark. When the whore perches on a man’s knee to gaze at him and when another stranger is coerced into a fantastically gradually mimed dual their nervousness is as much a part of the thrill as Action Hero’s flawless physicality and pace. That we’re involved in their action, their danger, seems an honorary invite to adventure, and an almost wayward joy.

by Kate Charles

‘A Western’ in Nottingham
May 4, 2010, 11:33 am
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We will be performing ‘A Western’ in Nottingham on the 1st June at 10pm as part of Hatch: Across festival.

It will be at the Malt Cross pub on St James’s street

See you there