Random Scream, Brussels, BELGIUM
Do My Mouth
Directed by Davis Freeman
A stand-up comedy that touches on life and death, #metoo and a grandfather in the Ku-Klux-Klan. Acclaimed performer and playwright Davis Freeman combines reflections on traumatic family histories with droll observations from his everyday life. Poised between the honest confessions of a mature man and reflections on the tasks of the artist, Freeman re-evaluates his personal and professional life, but as a good clown he does not shy from thinking back to awkward or uncomfortable experiences and painful family secrets. He presents this to the audience so they may together find and perhaps piece together the motley shards of ordinary but ultimately opaque lives.
Do my Mouth, an original performance, begins with Davis Freeman coming out on a dim stage singing Tom Petty’s song Southern Accents. Like Petty, Freeman too opens the subject of speech, or more precisely the peculiarity of a dialect or accent and its potential to characterise a speaker. No one is interested in the attitude to life of Petty’s lyrical subject because his southern accent immediately projects a clear (and distorted) idea about him to the listener. Petty delivers his text with the honesty of a folk singer-songwriter, does not reproach his audience, and opposes the hasty judgements made against him to the rich inner world hidden beneath. Davis Freeman, too, stands over against the audience and tries to communicate with them without mediation.
Do my Mouth has the apparent form of a stand-up comedy but exploits its means in a rather sophisticated manner. Once we have listened to a couple of melancholic verses in song, Freeman begins with a reflection about death. Or rather – about the dead. Roughly one hundred and fifty-thousand people die daily around the world, and Tom Petty was one of the on 2 October 2017. A singer who earned fame by singing about completely ordinary things, about completely ordinary people whose lives will remain forever anonymous. Right at the beginning, Freeman charts an interesting paradox in his manner of narration. He tells highly personal stories to his audience and exposes his vulnerabilities, but thanks to his performative mastery he is able to maintain an important distance from his account with minimal means, all the while alternating between the character of a clown, Quixotic searcher, confessor, a slightly vain actor, and motivational trainer.
Davis Freeman tells us stories from his personal life (founding a family, raising children, the death of a friend), eventually comes back to his family history and confesses a surprising thing – his grandfather, born in the American South, was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. On the background of these facts and recollections of funny and tragic events in his life, he asks how and how much one is affected by one’s ancestry, how one can come to terms with what our ancestors were like, what they bequeathed to us as legacy – and if it matters at all. In confronting the past, he finds solace in hope for a better future in the forms of his and through his children. Love and death, shame and happiness, mishap and misunderstanding intertwine in his monologue and do not simply paint events in a simplified or sentimental manner, but in their tragicomic entirety.
Theatre itself is an important theme of the production. This is, on the one hand, because Freeman has dedicated his life to theatre, but also because he meets his audience precisely through it. His stage persona wants to scrutinise its existence post-forty years of age as honestly as can be done. But is this even possible, if one of the foundational principles of theatre is a denial of honesty? Questions such as who Freeman is and what he has achieved in his life so far, as well as the search for answers to them on stage, ring comical. Just as such grand themes should when rendered this way. However, they also bespeak a great deal of understanding for the human being and all that is human. Perhaps this is so because Freeman is not ashamed of anything. And also, for how he is able – with almost Chekhovian wonder – to mine a metaphor or at the very least some understanding for the human that may be entirely alien to us from even the most trivial of trivialities or a moral failure or ethical dilemma in his life or the life of his nearest.
concept and direction by: Davis Freeman
cast: Davis & Kaya Freeman
visual graphics: Sam Vanoverschelde
produced by Random Scream & Bit Teatergarasjen
presentation at Divadelná Nitra supported by Slovak Arts Council, Flanders – State of Art, LITA – Society of Authors, SPP Foundation
Davis Freeman (1969)
is an American artist based in Brussels. In 1999 he founded Random Scream, a theatre company whose aim is to expose the eclectic elements of everyday culture with proposed lines of flight for dance, theatre, and visual arts. Their projects aim to draw attention to what is already there by focusing on our personal interactions and how our choices directly affect each other and the community we live in. Davis creates contemporary theatre and dance, photo/video installations and curatorial projects. His work has been labelled ‘devious political theatre’ and ‘docu-performance’, and it often fights for a more ecological planet. Currently he is touring his latest pieces Do my Mouth, Karaoke (ART), 7 Promises, What you need to know (2nd Place in Danse Elargie competition at Theatre de la Ville). Alongside his own work Davis also performs with Forced Entertainment (Bloody Mess, The World in Pictures), Meg Stuart (Built to Last, Highway 101, Alibi), Stephan Pucher (Kirshgarten, Snapshots) and Superamas (Big 2, Big 3, Empire). This performance will be the first appearance for Davis Freeman and Random Scream at ITF Divadelná Nitra and in the Slovak Republic.