The essence & beauty of theatre & life from the perspective of a living statue
by Anya Anastasia
The experience with other humans in the street is utterly fascinating when you remain completely still and you are dressed like a freak. You can take it from me. I recently dipped my toes into the world of street performance. The rest of me fell in after my toes, and I was covered from head to foot in paint. It was FASCINATING, ‘immersive’, thought provoking.
Designing the costume consisted of drawing countless sketches, getting lost in the internet following trails of images, many conversations with sellers of body paint to work out how to achieve the look that I was after. I trialled the make-up and styled and re-styled wigs until I brought my sketches to life. Crafting the costume out of found items took hours upon hours, armed with a glue-gun and several cans of white spray paint.
Then there’s the ritualistic part… waking up at 5am on the day of the performance, and beginning to apply the make up and do the hair, and fix the flowers and ornaments into the headpiece.
Statue Lady appears. There she is, set up, on a busy street, looking as if she comes from another planet, perfectly still. As people first notice her, they are immediately cast into a fleeting encounter with the unknown and wondering how to interact with it.
The theatrical experience of being a statue is deeply insightful. There is something so pure about that exchange. And something so poignant about the Statue Lady who is trapped, frozen, utterly still, but is brought to life when people make the gesture of giving her a dollar or two. She is brought to life by this interaction with someone. It is a deeply personal connection that Statue Lady has with that person in that moment. They have taken the time to stop and soak in this wild visual, and then they have offered a gesture as thanks.
To me, deep in character as Statue Lady, I feel the magnitude of this gesture. Their gesture has freed me, I can move for one moment, so I look into their eyes, and I take a deep bow, to show my gratitude, and then freeze again in a new position, holding it until someone else comes along to share a moment with me. It is such a respectful, simple and beautiful exchange. It is such a pure way to appreciate art, and for art to be appreciated.
Children engage so well with the enigma surrounding Statue Lady. “Is she real?” They respond so gorgeously to the sight of something so different; utterly mesmerized, maybe slightly afraid or tentative, but very, very curious. Occasionally, families would walk past and the children would stop transfixed, the parents would get a few steps further before realizing their children were gone, and it wasn’t until turning around to look for their kids that they would notice the Statue Lady. They would either help their kids to engage with her, and encourage them to be adventurous and step forward and give her a coin, or they would try to get their kids to keep walking, which was often almost impossible!
It is also very interesting being silent. As people are bustling past, their reactions when they see me are so immediate, and people have no time to censor their comments when they are startled. Most of this ‘processing’ they do aloud to themselves! (Not really realizing until later that I can hear them.) It feels quite special to have spontaneous insight into how people are processing the world as they see it, how they are trying to fit an unexpected appearance of a motionless silent human statue into their awareness. Here’s an example:
An elderly couple walks past, and the lady starts on this surprised monologue…
“Oh my god it’s real!” “She’s real.” “Is it a boy or a girl?” “Does it move?” “Do you talk?” then she laughs and nudges her partner. “Wow she’s really good, that’s really clever.”
In the ‘thoughts-to-words’ immediacy of these sentences demonstrate an audible urgency of the woman under pressure to make sense of what’s going on. It is so beautiful to hear as the tension turns to a gracious acceptance of Statue Lady’s presence and her differences, and then a creeping sense of understanding as to how this different culture of interaction can work. They see the coins in front of her, and work out that there’s a way to engage with this artwork.
It is SO interesting.
And it is such a poignant melancholy but beautiful character: one who can hear but can’t speak. One who can feel but can’t move. One who can have her eyes open and look, but can’t see, because to keep your eyes still they have to be out of focus, or focused on something stationary, so you can’t see the people around you, only in your peripherals. How you perceive the world when you are a statue is so different.
It is SO interesting. SO INTERESTING!
I had a coffee with my Dad and talked about some of these ideas. He mentioned this story by Oscar Wilde, which I think I have read in my childhood. I went straight home and re-read it. It made me cry. I urge you to read it too. It is not very long. It is very beautiful.
You can read the story online. Here is the LINK.
I’ll leave you with a wee little anecdote. There is a part in the Oscar Wilde story where the sparrow delivers a gift from the statue to the poor little match-girl, she is given a sapphire and she runs home happily saying “Look at this pretty piece of glass!” Oscar Wilde is from Dublin. When I was in Dublin, I suddenly found myself penniless. My bank account had been frozen for security as they’d noticed someone was taking money out from a different country. I was only 18, and felt very alone and far from home. Before I panicked I took my last 5 Euros and bought a Guinness. Then I went for a walk in the freezing streets of Dublin. Breathing plumes of steam into the freezing night air, I looked up to the gorgeous little white Christmas lights glittering above me. Then I cast my eyes down to see one of the glittering lights fallen at my feet between the cobblestones. I picked it up, and upon examining it, discovered it to be a huge glistening ear-ring. I shoved it happily into my pocket, ‘what a pretty piece of glass’ and strolled on. The next day, I left my hostel, as I couldn’t pay for another night, and walking along with all my bags in tow, the reality started sinking in. What was I going to do? I felt in my pocket to discover that still had the little ear ring, just as I was walking past a jewellers, so I popped in with a sheepish little smile to inquire as to its worth. After 10 minutes of examination, the lady returned to tell me I’d found a diamond!
I sold it to her there and then, bought myself a warm coat, (I now call it my diamond coat) I went to lunch and had enough cash in my pockets to last me until I got my plane back to England and my job that I’d been on holiday from.
I used to think it was a gift from the leprechauns, now I think it was a gift from the weeping statue, and the sparrow.
Anya Anastasia is Stirling Laneways‘ Entertainment Director. It can be tricky to recognise her, from one Laneways to the next, but she’s always there – your host for the day – sometimes performing, sometimes mingling, always spectacularly dressed with her own quirky take on the Laneways theme.
The Statue Lady appeared at the very first Stirling Laneways in April, 2014.
Originally published HERE, and used with permission.