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
News
Disruption at Waterloo after a person was hit by a train
newsCancellations and disrupted service after person hit by train
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
The almost deserted Liverpool Echo Arena on Monday
tvCan X Factor last in the face of plummeting numbers auditioning
News
Kirsty Bertarelli is launching a singing career with an album of songs detailing her observations of “real life”
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
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: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

    £16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

    Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

    £13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

    £16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence