How much is that Aussie in the window?

For 13 days, four Australians lived in a shop front in south London - and the locals loved it. INGRID KENNEDY joined the party

Imagine living 24 hours a day in a glass cage under the watchful gaze of an audience, where your every action, however private, is seen by all and sundry. Well four Australian performers have done just that. Two-and-a-half weeks ago, amid the glare of the national press, four bald guys, looking like a Right Said Fred tribute band, were locked into the window display of Arding & Hobbs, a south London department store. For 13 days they cooked, cleaned, bathed and did everything but pee in front of the Great British Public.

It might sound like a Japanese endurance television show but this is, apparently, serious drama - part of the London International Festival of Theatre, in fact. "The glass breaks barriers between us and the audience, but also within the audience itself," explains performer David Wells. The format was a great success in Melbourne, Montreal and Belgium - "It's quite a phenomenon," says Wells - but how did it go down with reserved Brits, who'd rather suck lemons than say hello to someone they've lived next to for 20 years?

Well, Neil, David, Nick and Andrew survived and emerged last Thursday elated, if a little pale and shaky, and positively brimming with enthusiasm about the south London crowd. "The audience was afraid in the beginning," explains Neil Thomas, leader of the troupe, "but by the end they became friends."

And didn't they just. Women in particular entered into the spirit of things. One, described by her friend as normally "very shy and demure", was doing a highly suggestive tango with one of the guys after just a few minutes - literally smooching with him through the glass. Another arrived and instantly broke into an Irish jig. At night the pavement leapt around to the sound of the "Jailhouse Rock". And, surprise surprise, a group of lads on their way home from the pub pulled down their trousers and mooned at them. "We took it as a friendly gesture," says Neil diplomatically.

During the two weeks, they attracted a regular audience from all walks of life. Mums on the school run rubbed shoulders with suited city types and schoolgirls watched their new heroes alongside the deaf, for whom the show was a natural draw. They chatted with the men inside via sign language, e-mail, phone and fax. Soon the window became a regular haunt for the locals. Rebecca Chubb changed her daily walk to the station so she could wave good morning to the boys. "They're bleary-eyed at that time and get livelier later on," she says. And, naturally, as true performers the men did their fair share to entice them.

"Once, three of them were having dinner while the other was having a shower," recalls Rebecca. "He asked someone to pass his towel, but got given a furry animal instead. He had to come out and grab his towel, with his privates barely covered and I found myself really feeling for him, just hoping he was going to make it with his dignity intact."

Despite the pressures, the performers are still on speaking terms. "We've had a ball," says Neil, "we've worked together for 15 years and we're great friends." Neil's only frustration was hurting his knee in an energetic dance routine which meant he was forced to take it easy. "The other guys had to strap me down, as I was so keen to join in I was risking more damage to my knee."

When the four were let out, they kissed the regulars goodbye, bringing some close to tears. There's no doubt that the sight of four men baring all provoked a strong reaction. Steve Caubergh, another regular, believes the presence of the guys led him to talk to people in the street in a way he wouldn't normally do, "We all have something in common now by watching this."

But perhaps this fascination with other people going about their ordinary lives is not really a surprise. We've always been a nation of nosy parkers, albeit from a discreet distance. Thanks to a group of endearingly exhibitionist Aussies, the Brits have come out of the closet and started dancing in the street.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

    Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

    £14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

    Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

    £16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

    £27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor