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The Blizzard of Oz: an Art Macabre Xmas panto

26 December 2013

What better way to end a fantastic year of nude modelling and artistic performance than with a life art Christmas pantomime? The idea was irresistible when it came to Art Macabre supremo Nikki, a.k.a. Raven Rouge, in October as we prepared for the Digital Dystopia event.

Nikki makes ideas happen. This one would be a macabre version of The Wizard of Oz; a cast was assembled very quickly. The Attic bar of the Hackney Picturehouse was secured as a venue, for one night only in the week before Christmas. And the plot, the script… well, that could be made up as we went along.

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Thus we came together at the Attic on the evening of Monday 16 December. Chelsea would play a topless Dorothy; Georgie and Ava would be naked witches – wicked and good respectively; Nikki would be in rags as the scarecrow; I would be a full-frontal tin man; and Linsay would wear furry pants and socks as the cowardly lion.

Aaron was our make-up artist and photographer. It would not be an Art Macabre event without lashings of body paint. First Nikki and Aaron painted Georgie green from head to toe. Meanwhile, Linsay had wrapped insulating silver around my torso and forearms in advance of Nikki and Aaron joining her in dabbing silver paint all over my face, neck, shoulders and arms.

Knickers were changed, capes and gowns were fastened, bows were put in hair, face paint was applied to Nikki and Linsay, horns were affixed to witches and a silver-foiled funnel was chin-strapped to my head. Our stage was strewn with curious props.

They say never work with children or animals, so we did without Munchkins and used a canine skull to represent Toto.

We were ready.

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At the appointed time, Nikki took to the stage and set the scene, opening the session with Chelsea and Georgie in a run of short poses. Ava, Linsay and I lurked backstage, just behind the entrance curtain, eagerly listening for Nikki’s narration between poses to hear whether we were about to be called.

The good witch Ava made her appearance midway through the first half, while Linsay and I were destined not to appear until after the short drinks break.

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The second half opened with me posing solo for 10 minutes, standing upon two stools with my arms raised in a vaguely menacing manner. Nikki felt that the Art Macabre tin man had to be evil: he has no heart, therefore he is heartless.

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Next Linsay joined me on stage for a cowering pose as I held a human skull towards her. After this I gained my heart (a silver cardboard cut-out with red ribbons attached, stuck to my chest) and Linsay gained her courage (the skull of Toto, whom she had apparently devoured).

We held standing poses with Chelsea’s Dorothy standing defiantly between us, her hands on her hips.

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For the final two poses the full cast assembled on stage. An unexpected denouement was the wicked witch throttling Dorothy to death from behind – a two minute pose at the very end. Apparently Nikki simply whispered to Georgie: “Kill her!”

Well… this was Art Macabre after all.

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Job done, we hammed it up backstage and on stage for cast photos. This wasn’t a big payday, just a good honest feel-good event to end the year.

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It was my fourth time as a player in Art Macabre’s theatrical world of life and death drawing. There’s always lots of banter, laughter, originality, creativity and surprises. The artists get a very different kind of life drawing experience, as well as a fun night out. If 2014 brings more opportunities to work with Nikki, Linsay and the gang, it will surely be a very happy new year.

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