The Tremendous Gert

Readers may recall my essay about the world-famous food-splattered Jesuit. I imagined a music hall act of “sheer simplicity. The curtains would open and there, on stage, world-famous and splattered with food, stood a Jesuit. He would extend his arms, almost in crucifixion pose, and gaze at a point slightly above the heads of the audience. There were no frills, no ‘business’ with props. After a few minutes, the curtains would close, and – barring the inevitable encore – that was that.”

It has now come to my attention that, as so often, the real world anticipated the supposedly wacky world of Hooting Yard, and by many decades. Via Strange Flowers, I learned today of Weimar cabaret artist Valeska Gert. “In the 1920s, Gert premiered one of her most provocative works entitled Pause. Performed in between reels at Berlin cinemas, it was intended to draw attention to inactivity, silence, serenity, and stillness amidst all the movement and chaos in modern life. She came onstage and literally just stood there. ‘It was so radical just to go on stage in the cinema and stand there and do nothing,’ said Wolfgang Mueller.”

Here she is in more animated mode:

One thought on “The Tremendous Gert

  1. It may be so that Valeska Gert’s act is similar to that of the talented anonymous Jesuit; but for me, it is only the addition of the splatterings of food which were the essential ingredient responsible for transforming his act from a mere sixpence sideshow diversion, to a work of ‘achingly beautiful’ transcendental genius; so artistic and wrought with meaning it is, that it is likely to be adapted for the big screen, directed by Danny Boyle, and starring Michael Fassbender no less.

    In tribute, I sit smattered with fish oil and ‘debris from eggy sandwich’ myself.

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