Normals

The idea of banning face masks in public in the wake of recent events seems to be one knee-jerk reaction too far. Why, innocent gentlemen of a certain age popping out for a pootle on their ancient BSA’s, well wrapped up in their full-face balaclavas on a chilly winter’s day might find themselves in trouble.

And the Natural Theatre Company whose trademark is an endless variety of masks and head coverings would practically be forced out of business.

You may laugh, but in days gone by I have been forced to remove my flowerpot head by an over-zealous officer, and a more innocent disguise you would be hard put to find.

But it was our characters The Normals that seemed to generate the most ire amongst the upholders of the law. The Normals were so called because they went about doing normal things, but in an exaggerated manner. Heightened reality we called it in our Arts Council applications. They sported dark suits, natty bowler hats and silver Lurex masks and could both represent faceless bureaucrats or Everyman, depending on the situation. Generally they looked very silly and their actions were pure slapstick.

Despite street audiences falling about with laughter, the police would invariably take umbrage. From Bath to Brighton via Barcelona, halfway through the walkabout performance the inevitable sound of sirens would fill the air. We’re talking 1970’s here, and most street theatre was either of the flower-power variety or blatantly agit-prop. The Normals were very dapper, all shiny shoes and white gloves, and must have looked as though they meant something, well, meaningful!

But it was their lack of a face that seemed to annoy the authorities. And just as a chum of mine got chucked out of a mime class in college for having a rebellious attitude when it was really his mask that had the cheeky wide-boy expression, not him inside it, the faceless Normals really came in for some stick. Literally in the case of a performance in Brighton when the boys in blue came not only with truncheons drawn but with slavering dogs too.

We were considering reviving The Normals, but even though we won the ensuing Brighton court case, I think we might leave it for a bit.

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