Panama 2020 – Last Show On Earth Ep 2
When the festival actually kicked off, it was hard to accept or adjust to the transition in some ways. “Who are all these fucking people?” I thought to myself. Though less difficult than the previous year, being deep in the process and having to relocate to the new area still felt discombobulating. Our friend and hero Paul Mann had led the charge on ‘The Not So Grande Hotel’ circus stage, and the Plastik Paradiso kiosk was adjacent, so we had our studio base backstage at the circus. It was, as ever, a fabulous and eclectic mix of international circus stars brought together by Fluffy to roll out shows each night. Some fabulous new friends to be made, as well as old faves such as Amazing Gracie B, Jonny Electrolux and AJ James, who I originally met in the queue for a soup kitchen at Cadiz Carnival in 1993 (shit! 27 years ago!!!). We had spent a winter travelling up through Spain to Barcelona, where the Circo Claro crew travelled on to the UK and I got off the bus to remain an Iberian clown. Even my old paradise travelling buddy and co director at Invisible Circus, Wim Penhaul made an appearance. All the greats!
The shows had a beautiful freestyle flow to them, swapping up acts as well as MC slots with Fluffy we rolled into it with vibes high. I remained quite disconnected to news from the outside world during the first phase of the festival, only really realising how things had escalated when the military police showed up towards the end of the event. They were trying to close it down and evacuate the site within 24 hrs, quite a shock moment, and also a super unrealistic idea! With no transportation booked and no resources provided by the government or military police (other than some grumpy guys with guns), funnily enough they let us carry on.
Here alone, on this dark night on the jungles edge, where fierce and relentless waves crash and pound on shore. Where the sky-dancing palm trees take the form of angels, gently welcoming angry Neptune’s army to kiss the golden sandy shores of the great Pacha Mama herself. On shifting sands, sprawled and churned to make new landscapes every day, this distant, jagged, and beautiful stretch of remote coastline. Even here, the disposable detritus of our times sits decaying and polluting, in every tree line and river inlet, fresh stock on every tide! All the products of the consumer toy-town mentality that is the norm in our human world. A world designed for nothing more than the movement of goods and people to consume them. Nothing is really going on, nothing’s really happening, and yet so much is being consumed and discarded. What would it take for people to wake up to what is really going on? I mean it’s really not that complicated, the biggest confidence trick in history.
The tension was palpable across site as music went off and news travelled of the military at the gates. Always a bit of a vibe killer, this would be the first of many such moments. Luckily a clown always knows how to respond in these times; Fluffy and I looked at each other.
“The show must go on right?”
So on with the show! It turned out that to be able to continue, the site had to be re-registered as a holiday resort not a festival. As usual, the improvised idea of the Not So Grande Hotel was bang on the money, ahead of the game! Welcome to the weirdest holiday resort ever! So we rocked into the last weekend avec gusto. The final shows were super emotional, aware as we were that they were possibly some of the last shows to a live audience in the world! I preached the line of positive apocalypse, that a change needed to come and now it had. Not to take the losses of lives and livelihoods lightly in any way, but things were bound for extinction anyway, in not too much longer if you listened to the science, which no one was! Our days are numbered! But in the meantime stay connected, don’t be divided or distracted, use this digital superhighway for something more meaningful than cat videos! Support your communities and when we emerge, it will be stronger and with more solidarity than before.
We closed the festival on a high despite the situation. I did my best to boost people and talk about the positives as well as being realistic about the negatives. The stage invasion to REM’s It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) will stay with me forever! Little did we know, things were about to get even more surreal. It had only been 3 or 4 days since the military tried to evacuate us, but now it was over, they insisted we had to stay put and carry on! Being overly familiar with police trying to shut the party down, this was a first for me, where they lock you in and insist you continue. And so we did!
It was however an intense time, uncertainty, fear, and panic all have their part to play at such times, the sense of foreboding, doomsday mentality, etc. But here I was, quarantined by the military at the last festival in the world, with nothing else to do initially but make art and shows. You couldn’t write it! It was truly an honor to perform the final surge of creative outputs. Below is the text from the improvised puppet show in Plastik Paradiso, the last show I made for the crew one chilled Tuesday evening.
The Butterfly Girl
The butterfly girl came down from the moon,
To see what she could see,
all earth’s treasures, in equal measures,
Gifted, boundless and free.
But she discovered a land, more lost than found,
From the mountains down to the sea,
Where the people were slaves to old tired ways,
But somehow thought they were free.
To sleep like the lamb, and eat all they can,
And only ever want for more,
To pay what they must, whatever the cost,
Be it sorrow or hunger or war.
Through the darkest of nights, she danced in the light,
And marveled at all of the things,
The power and glory, of the never ending story,
And the poverty that money can bring.
She saw men with machines, that stole people’s dreams,
And sold them their deepest desires,
That burned inside with nowhere to hide,
But to rage like forest fires.
Yet all of the things and all of the stuff,
Never ever seemed enough,
For all they tasted and the fine clothes they wore,
All they ever wanted was more!
Fridges and freezers,
Fast cars and guns,
Washing machines forever to run,
Carpets and clocks,
Mobile phones and vibrators,
Hair dryers, gas fires,
Toilet paper dispensers,
Deep fat fryers and wide screen TVs,
And for this, they were willing to live on their knees.
All of the things, all the myriad menagerie of endless things,
That came in all different shapes and sizes,
Fantastic contraptions and pointless devices,
Things to make life easy,
Things to make things quick,
Things to make you feel better,
When things have made you sick,
Things to help you, things as friends,
Things you will never ever use again,
Things to make you happy,
Things for when you’re sad,
Things you always longed for,
But then wished you never had.
Things that can make you a believer, even in yourself,
Things to give you beauty, strength, sex appeal and health,
Things to make you perfect, things to make you fit,
Even things to tell you when you need to take a – walk in the park.
Things of sadness and longing, insecurity and fear,
And the things that we all use to try and make them disappear!
But for all of the things, they didn’t have wings,
So would never be able to fly,
But most didn’t know, it was part of the show,
So never even bothered to try.