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Old 07-06-12, 06:54 AM   #1
martin ewen
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Lurk A Cock and Balls Story, Paris.

[first draft-suggestions welcome]

One of the more remarkable street performances I’ve ever seen was a French Hypnotist in Paris who’d get a crowd, grab a handful of men out of it, put them under, convince them their genitals had disappeared then ransom the crowd for their return.

I later heard he'd trained in Hypnosis for physicians at the world-renowned Faculté de Médecine-Sorbonne Universités.

It was truly masterful, there were no props but his skill and I watched him for two months work two or three times a week, always with different men selected and the end of his show posed beautifully the questions not often enough asked.

What are we doing?

How did we get here?

How much fun was that?



I’m convinced the most interesting parts of life occur whilst getting from point A to point B.

Sure you can drive to the circus or turn your TV on. The circus will undoubtedly contain prefabricated circus goodness and the TV’s on/off switch contains the power to keep you mindlessly tranquilized until your mind melts and you become a sentimentally reactionary nub easily triggered to cosmetically overcome any recognition of your muted humanity of various points of purchase. Now via the internet from the safety of your own home such that the invocation of the insecurity and its nano relief are the same or adjacent flickering screens.


….anyway. If you were to risk walking in a public place towards the circus or whimsically attack your TV with a baseball bat.

He arrived like an understated swashbuckler. He wore a turquoise full-length coat that was suitably timeless yet intriguing. He carried a small suitcase and extruded confidence and powerwalked like he was going to beat his child when he got home.


He was handsome and swarthy, slender and olive with some cryptic symbol painted onto his cheek. He had that magnetism that sets a good con artist apart and a subterranean yet steely authority.

What theatre is essentially is manipulating time and space for effect. It could be said that it’s a conceit in which certain incomprehensible truths are alluded to and felt on some barely fathomable level.

One of these truths is simply this; we simply don’t have a clue what’s going on. We take direction and call it individuality. We succumb to rituals and conventions that define us and occasionally if we’re lucky some canny technician will temporarily remove our bedrock and yet we will be too entranced to be frightened.

What I love about street theatre done well is that this collective wonder is produced in that endangered environment known as a public place.




He started out marshaling his audience, pointing and directing, molding the edges, bringing people forward. It was all in French but I understood the mechanics he was employing. I could follow his tone and his subtext. I wasn’t so much interested in what he was saying [sadly I don’t speak French] but how he controlled his audience by what came out of his mouth. You can decipher the message by observing the medium. I’m an avid student of street performance dynamics. I think it’s the closest thing to real magic I’ve found.


The pitch he was using was Paris’s prime daytime street venue; the sprawling courtyard behind the Pompidou is large enough to run three shows simultaneously, it’s gently banked and you can fit hundreds comfortably. He fashioned his crowd, He would face them and bark directions then walk up into them, the banked stage meant he was always visible to all, and select targets, women to whom he’d play small conjuring tricks, eroding tension, establishing trust, marking his authority like pissing on a post using slight of hand.

He made a point of stepping throughout the main core of his audience. He would make people stand and answer questions put them at ease and seat them again. He was scanning his audience for the right individuals to use his powers of suggestion on later. Some he would just lay a hand on in passing, as if to use them as support as he scrabbled through his crowd. I think he could work out by whatever tension he felt as he passed whether they could be useful later on.

He made his way to his stage, rearranged his small suitcase briefly from the middle to one side and then asked for male volunteers. I suspect he said they would have to be brave and fearless and that they would experience something profound and that not all who volunteered would be chosen. About fifteen guys, as if challenged by him somehow, stood and made their way to the stage. He lined them up and walked their ranks a couple of times, staring into each of their faces, sometimes putting a hand on their shoulder or grasping a hand. He then strode down their line behind them, laying a hand on one or the other. selecting seven men and sending the others back.

He then lined up the men; they stood in a line shoulder to shoulder looking bemused. He told them he was going to put them to sleep, they would remain standing and safe however when he touched them on the forehead they were going to go into a deep sleep. I suspect he had the most suggestible at one end of the line and the others would simply follow the lead but nevertheless he then went down the line touching each of the seven on the forehead and saying some word and they each nodded out, their heads drooping.

He turned to his audience and presented his seven entranced French men and then explained to them what was about to happen. He explained that he had hypnotized these men and they were under his spell and he could do with them as he wished. As a demonstration of his powers he was going to make their genitals disappear. He phrased it something like. I am going to take these Frenchmen and make that which is most precious to them…disappear.

He further explained that he would do this and after snapping his fingers directly in each of their faces they would awake and run to a private place to check and sure enough they would find that that which was most precious to them had indeed disappeared. After checking they would each return and form the line they had left from.

The audience were themselves entranced. This was surreal, unbelievable, and yet the seven men stood there. Primed.

With a flourish he walked down the line snapping his fingers in each face. Each man woke and in some way put their hand or hands between their legs and turned 180 and began to run the 50 ft. backstage each to one of the massive pillars at the back of the Pompidou. Each ran with a comic fragile gait, each to their individual pillar that they ducked behind to pull the waistbands of their jeans or pants and peer down to where their genitals had once been.

The crowd were roaring with laughter and that roar escalated as each of the men, sheepishly, convincingly, returned, amused and perplexed and seemingly convinced their genitals had apparently vanished. They glanced at each other, on their return, each reinforcing to the other this collective confusion, [or deceit depending on your outlook] as they once again formed a line and the crowd howled in glee.

The hypnotist waited for that moment to peak and then went down the line again touching foreheads, putting each of them to sleep again and then once he had seven head bowed victims and a crowd who’d bought into this hilarious situation completely he went into the heart of his show.

It was quite simple. He ransomed seven pairs of French genitals.


He stated that he had the power to remove what was most precious from these men and he also had the power to reinstate what he had taken but that the question that his audience had to ask themselves was this; what were these men’s genitals worth?

He grabbed his small suitcase and opened it and handed it to the bottom right hand of his audience with instructions to put what they thought these men’s genitals were worth into it and pass the opened suitcase on. Again, a banked stage meant that the suitcase never left everybody’s sight and he directed it go from bottom to top then back down to the front row then up to the back again in a close zig zag that took a good 5 minutes in which he directed and kept up a constant stream of monologue.

The suitcase eventually made its way to the front left of the audience and he grabbed it, snapped it shut and jiggled it, the coins and notes bouncing round inside as he gauged the weight and approximate amount. He was, of course, insulted at whatever amount was in there and went straight across to front stage right and started the procedure again. This time his monologue was more indignant on the behalf of the seven men lined behind him. He demanded a little more respect for his powers and hinted that unless his audience satisfied him these men might lead confused lives as a result of his audience’s cheapness. I suspect he accused some of them of merely spectating, leaving the fates of these seven men to others, content to avoid responsibility in general and simply take and never give. I didn’t speak French but he spoke very passionately and these are the phrases I’m prepared to concoct on his behalf.

He got his suitcase back for the second time and tested it again for weight. This time he was speechless with rage. He stormed back to the lower left and started the whole procedure again and simply screamed “Ladies and gentlemen, we are speaking here of seven pairs of FRENCH genitals!”

The suitcase made its progress while he paced and muttered in front of his line of stood sleeping Frenchmen. He would glance up at its progress and glower. Eventually it made its way down to the front right for the third time and he once again weighed it and remarking no more about it, placed it standing just to the outside of his seventh Frenchman.

He then declared that he would go down the line and click his fingers once more and each of the men would once again run to a private place to discover that what had disappeared had now miraculously reappeared!

The audience was abuzz with anticipation and glee as he walked the length of the line clicking his fingers and waking the men up who immediately turned and started once again running in various comic gaits back to their pillars to inspect themselves.

The final and most profound piece of magic happened at this point. Structure creates theatre and as a performer structure interests me more. I find the way things are structured sometimes profound just as an audience member I can find the effect of the structure profound.

This is what happened structurally. The hypnotist walked his line of groinless Frenchmen waking them up as each woke, turned and ran for a pillar. When he got to the end of the line his suitcase was waiting and he simply picked it up and kept walking, first in a line sideways to his audience and then up away behind them to the nearest metro station a few hundred yards away.

No one but me I suspect paid any attention to this. The focus was on the woken Frenchmen who each ran to a pillar, pulled their pants out and peered down at themselves before turning and each wearing their own particular smug looks of self satisfaction, swaggered back to the stage as the audience laughed and cheered and climaxed.

But the performer was not there any more. There was no architect for the construct. The laughter died. The smug looks faltered. The audience was rudderless. There was almost disquiet as a bunch of strangers came to terms with having to define for themselves once again their lives.

I thought that was beautiful and powerful and profound because it encapsulated for each individual those incredibly important questions not often enough asked.

What are we doing?

How did we get here?

How much fun was that?

Last edited by martin ewen; 07-06-12 at 01:10 PM.
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Old 07-06-12, 10:51 AM   #2
Irina
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Great story! Do you by chance remember his name? I want to google this guy.
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Old 07-10-12, 01:09 PM   #3
dave walbridge
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brillant act, well told, sir, well told...
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Old 07-19-12, 11:00 PM   #4
martin ewen
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Thanks dave and irina, i have no idea who the dude is/was, it was about 15 years ago. I only just got around to writing it down.
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