The roving life of a carnie
The World Buskers Festival has rolled into town. Alongside the
top international acts plying their fun-filled antics on our
streets are our own multi-talented entertainers. Vicki Anderson
talks to David Ladderman about the roving life of a carnie and his
show, Battle of the Bastards, GO's homegrown pick of the
In the cafe we are in, a group of girls want to sniff David
"You smell good. I loved you in a burlesque show at The Loons. I
saw it three times. You were awesome," one says.
Does he get that a lot?
"Probably. It's good fun."
Ladderman, he of the distinctive hairstyle, a founding member of
The Motley Two and The Loons Circus Theatre Company, presents his
inventive and hilarious story of Shakespeare's biggest bastard at
the World Buskers Festival.
While touring "Bastards" internationally, over the past year the
Christchurch based entertainer has also worked at New Zealand
Opera, The Court Theatre, The Hobbit World Premiere and The New
Zealand International Comedy Festival.
The Loons may be out of action but Ladderman (not his real name)
says cohort Mike Friend has been working on projects at Lyttelton
Main School where a rehearsal of Rumpelstiltskin is in action.
Ladderman has recently returned from the Toronto Fringe Festival
where his show Battle of the Bastards scored glowing reviews and
won Best Of The Fringe. It was first performed in Lyttelton but the
street performer is pleased the buskers festival show is in a
"Imagine being on the street going, 'do you guys want to come
and watch a Shakespeare?' while the guy down the road is revving
He admits that the show is ambitious for a busking festival.
"This festival is grown up enough that it goes, 'yeah, come in,
stand in next to the comedy and burlesque, do your off-kilter
stuff". It'll work here, I hope."
He also hopes no-one heckles him Shakespearean style: "Gettest
on with it thou".
"It was already there and it's just fun. I love King Lear, I
just actually quite like Shakespeare and am acutely aware that it's
boring as bats... often. Look at Macbeth, Hamlet, they were the
Arnold Schwarzenegger blockbuster films of their time. That's what
bastard is, it's an attempt to get that back. I also wanted an
opportunity to play a cartoon villain. Edmund is a little
The Australian native moved here in 1998 to attend the CircoArts
"I wasn't born with a red and black one-eye, I've grown
He performed with Mulletman and friends within the CircoArts
"At CircoArts, Sam Wills was in the year before us as was
Dandyman, Shay Horay was the year after us. Much to Wellington's
distaste, Christchurch forever was the centre of busking and circus
for the nation.
"The World Buskers Festival started first but those two things
grew up at the same time."
Christchurch carnies have to take their shows overseas before
they become "legitimised" here.
"Prophet is a mad man in his own town and all that.
"Sam's show has gone all over the world and there are
opportunities for people to go away and come home and there's a
festival in their hometown that stands up to anything in the
Does he think Cantabrians take the buskers festival for
"People hear and read every year 'this is as good a festival as
anywhere in the world'. I guess they think 'but people say that
about everything' but in this case it's actually true, it's world
For Ladderman it's sharing his love of Shakespeare that
"Some of the best feedback I've ever had was a fellow who said,
'Geez I hate that stuff but I went home and read King Lear after I
saw your show'."
With his girlfriend, who performs as the Coin Operated Girl,
Christchurch entertainer Lizzie Tollemache, also the producer of
Battle of the Bastards, the pair are working up a show to take back
to Canada this year.
Having seen Ladderman perform often at the Darkroom's fabulous
regular Monday Night Magic sessions, I'm curious about them.
"The biggest difference between Monday Night Magic and the World
Buskers Festival is that the acts at Monday Night Magic now will be
in the buskers festival in a few years.
"Lizzie and I have been working on our duo stuff at Monday Night
Magic and that show is rich with the stories of the great
mindreaders of the past and the crazy things they got up to and the
way they lived their lives. It's ripe for being dealt to and that's
what we're taking back to Canada this year."
Ladderman assures that the narrator offers a guided tour through
the antiquated language in Battle of the Bastards.
"Give it 10 minutes, your ear turns in. There's no swearing but
the word bastard is constantly used, it's in the play over 20
times. Shakespeare is Yoda speak, I'm sure that's where Star Wars
got the idea from."
Another highlight of the festival is, he says, for 10 days of
the year "Christchurch carnies become respected citizens".
of the Bastards (R16), today to January 25, 9.30pm at Tea Cup
Tent, Busker Park, North Hagley Park. $10/$15. See
worldbuskersfestival.com. Very limited seats available on the
The roving life of a carnie
- © Fairfax NZ News