Beth is a performance artist whose work looks at notions of the performer, macho and the absurd. She recently spent a day falling 158 times off a bucking bronco in Central Park for a piece of work. She’s that kind of girl. The Rinkomania performance was going to be a kind of re-enactment of some of the things people used to do on skates at the beginning of the Twentieth Century when there was a huge roller skating craze in Plymouth. In her research Beth had found out that there would often be races, battle re-enactments, dressing-up contests, and generally all sorts of ridiculousness with live chickens being given as prizes. Personally, I felt slightly disappointed when she said there would be no chicken prizes for us.
At the first rehearsal we all sat around looking confused as Beth described what she did and what she hoped Rinkomania could be and to be honest, I think most of us were there because we just thought “Yay, more skate time!”. However, the excitement spark was really ignited when we saw pictures of Victorian skaters dressed up as carrots – what’s not to love about that? And respect to Judge Jeddy who, when hearing there were no carrot costumes for us (bustles were going to be worn instead) didn’t flinch. In fact he embraced his inner Victorian lady completely and looked damn fine too.
Rehearsals became part of our weekly routine and slowly we all helped devise a performance by trial, error and terrifying Beth with the many falls and collisions that we all take as normal. It’s easy to forget that most people don’t spend their time knocking their friends over and comparing mahoosive bruises. Beth spent quite a lot of time asking if we were OK and letting us know she had good insurance – it was quite sweet really to see her worried little face as Jeddy and Gaylord started jumping over some of us. A particular highlight at our first rehearsal at the Devonport Guildhall was a whiplash inducing crash between BB Blitz and Charl Shred when a game of chicken resulted in neither of them giving way to the other. Beth did seem genuinely impressed by our skills during rehearsals, particularly when Gaylord played the piano with her ass. On skates. It was a moment of beauty.
The final performance incorporated a candle race, mock-ups of our PCRG training drills, human skittles, threatening face-offs and finally a tug-of-war. And all set to an incredible piece of music that had been composed for the occasion by Neil Rose (of Cafe Concrete fame) – when we first heard the music it made the whole thing come together and I’ll never hear an air raid siren go off now without imagining myself skating down a ramp into a darkened room, holding a candle.
With over 100 people in the audience and a performance lasting only about 8 minutes, the whole thing felt surreal and totally, unexpectedly brilliant. We all just wanted to turn around and do the whole thing again.
We found out that Beth was getting married the weekend after so we decided to make her an honorary member of PCRG, with a t-shirt, a name and a number. I heard from her last week from her new home in Canada and she told me she had found out when Freshmeat Training starts in Toronto – she’s thinking of joining. Job done PCRG!
You can see the full gallery of photographs by Simon Keitch from Rinkomania here
Listen to Nowhere Island's radio feature on us here
And finally, here is the fabulous Beth Richard's website: