Hat Trick

Back in 1993/4 when Mike and I were first making The Spurting Man we were working on a sequence where Spurty is crowned. The sequence is (and here I quote from a rare item an – Avanti script)

BP hat off, wipe face with hat

throw onto hat stand (could be a wait if it misses, ignore any kid I bring out)

Rubber hat comedy business

Emil suggested the hat gag (I guess he had seen the Buster Keaton clip). Our logic was ‘there is a hat stand- you have a hat in your hand – you don’t care about the hat – its the masters hat  – the master isn’t looking – so just chuck it without looking at the stand and amazingly it goes on and stays on’. This tiny moment became an obsession, I practised a couple of hours a day for months / years, I changed the material of the hat, I wet the hat to make it heavier, I practised some more, wind makes a difference of course, the distance is not always predictable, its a live show after all, but eventually I got to the 80% success area. I also developed a bit with a child who I would call on to retrieve it if I missed the throw, I would have another go sometimes get the kid back again after each fail it raises the stakes, the audience thinks its all part of the routine – but its not! In this video at 4.16 you can see the ‘bit’ in question. Its filmed outside the National Theatre and you can see in the background some very bemused theatregoers exiting from some Pinter play. The Spurting Man . When it works its like poetry, a perfect moment, when it fails, well, best not to dwell on that. Here are a few other Keaton hat moments from an essay by Jonathan Lyons

Keatons Hat Comedy

Crow At 101

Back from 101 Creation Centre in Newbury. We had an inspiring time there and even with Covid restrictions the place still has its own unique lively and purposeful feel. Less mixing with the other groups but other than that it’s business as usual! 101 is such an asset to Outdoor Artists in the UK. and although our visit was quite short we packed in lots of work. There will be video before too long.

Crow Business

The weeks go by and we keep accumulating more material for our Blueprint project. There are now poems, music – compositions and arrangements, visual tricks and illusions and even a storyboard, but as yet, no face to face meetings. In some ways (many) this is an extreme frustration, it can take a week to resolve a small point that would have taken minutes if we were together as people breathing the same air. But in other ways the process points to how we will all have to consider our working practises in the future. Some of the emerging themes speak of lockdown without ever setting out to. I feel we will end up somewhere new, somewhere the company has never been and thats the point of R&D, isn’t it?


Here is an arrangement I did to help with insomnia! –

“ There’s No Business”. (Like Showbusiness)



Without Walls Blueprint 2020

We are pleased to announce that we have been selected for the Without Walls Blueprint 2020 Programme alongside 9 other UK artists and companies. This is a great opportunity to begin the R&D process albeit in challenging circumstances. As well as creating material and thinking about ideas and actions, for the first time we are thinking seriously about the carbon impact of what we do. Avanti have always taken shows overseas and not always in a sensible way, we have been guilty of long distance travel for very short tours, but this R&D has been conceived as a piece of action research where we will try out some new ways to collaborate, rehearse and test out material. You can find more info on our Up & Coming page HERE

The Chair Snatch

Below is a clip filmed by Ian Cassidy in 1999 at a Street Ahead day in the centre of Manchester it shows James Macpherson, Mike Lister and Bill Palmer doing an old vaudeville routine known as the Chair Snatch. We learned the routine from Emil Wolk, who directed, Crash Cabaret and he learned it from Johnny Hutch the legendary acrobat. The full show is here. Hard to believe it’s not been speeded up and that we could once actually move this fast.