LOOK AWAY NOW – BARE TRUTH REVEALED!
In my 17 years as a professional entertainer, I can safely say I have built up quite a collection of audience types – or more precisely, reactions. But none matched, let alone prepared me for, an interesting experience during a recent gig in Kuwait. It resulted in women actually covering their faces and turning their children’s heads away from the sight of me!
I was with Scarlett Entertainment and a group of nine other performers and five crew members. We were staging a non-Disney version of Beauty and the Beast to celebrate Eid (a hugely important religious festival marking the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting).
Having been to Kuwait for another Eid celebration five years ago, we were prepared for covering up – tops to the wrists and trousers to the ankle. It’s an extremely conservative place, albeit a little more relaxed now.
In 2012 we weren’t allowed to shimmy, or blow a kiss at the audience, or do any moves that were open-legged towards the audience (a huge part of a circus performer’s repertoire). I remember the male/female acro duo having to change a lot of their act due to ‘inappropriate’ touching. There was no such concern this time round (probably due to it being a ticketed event rather than open to all in a shopping mall).
And yet we still had to be completely covered up while on stage. During one of the shows, we had a mishap with one of my costumes and the zip broke during a quick change backstage. Yikes!!!!! Within moments a flurry of people descended on me to attempt to fix the problem in the 3 minutes before our music started. We put a vest top underneath and taped up the zip as best we could and back out I went
However, within the first two moves the tape had split open and – horror of horrors - my upper back was on show for all to see! One of the actresses said she saw women in the audience turning away and protecting their children’s eyes from my back. I’ve always had compliments on my back, but apparently not in Kuwait!
I had a moment in the scene where I came off stage to remove my skates and prepare to do silks - and there was Sam, one of the production managers. She had immediately stripped off her own top in a moment of speedy problem solving and passed it over, giving me a high-backed top to cover me up for the next scene. “We can see Lisa’s back” had been screamed down the radio to her.
What a moment! It certainly got the adrenalin going. And then five minutes later the police appeared back stage and for a few terrifying moments I feared they were there to arrest me for exposing myself in public! Luckily, they weren’t. This was not my moment to be thrown in a Kuwaiti jail… Phew! Got away with it!!
However, all of this didn’t apparently seem to matter when we were shown to our dressing room – mixed sex, and essentially the wings. There wasn’t enough space for us all so we overflowed outside the curtained area – pretty much a corridor for all and sundry to walk past as we whipped costumes on and off.
Away from the stage, we also noticed little changes on the beach, which we visited at midnight after the show. (This seems to be the norm here – it is too hot in the day, so go at night). Five years ago, we wouldn’t have considered going in the water in anything less than a long-sleeved top and ankle-length leggings. This year shorts and t-shirt were okay!
Apparently, it is still illegal, but there will only be trouble if someone makes a complaint. And as our host and client said in a rather nervous way: “It will be me that gets in trouble”.
As for the Kuwaiti hospitality, this was better than ever. Nothing was too much trouble. We needed more rosin? We got more rosin. Our client overheard Jessie, my performing partner, saying she had dreamt of chocolate – so he got us all chocolate.
They took us to the beach, the markets - buying us samples of foods we were interested in. Then dinner out, followed by a shisha on the last night. Nothing was too much trouble for them.
And for this whole experience I thank you, Kuwait, for another host of lovely memories - topped off with an absolutely fantastic cast and crew, who worked so hard in extreme conditions.
Just a shame we couldn’t have a proper drink to celebrate in the officially ‘dry’ country of Kuwait . . . but some things do NOT change!