David Bowie Launches His Acting Career in the Avant-Garde Play Pierrot in Turquoise (1967)

We’ve posted plenty here from David Bowie the singer, which stands to reason, given his prominence in the set of all possible David Bowies. But rock-and-roll’s best-known shapeshifter has worked in other fields as well: a huge number of people love Bowie the singer, of course, but Bowie the actor has also accrued devoted fans of his own. Many continue to discover him through such “cult classic” films as Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth and Nagisa Oshima’s Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence. Here, we’ve previously featured his turns alongside Ricky Gervais and as Bertolt Brecht’s BaalPlenty of successful musicians start up high-profile side careers as actors, but Bowie the actor got his break before Bowie the singer did.

“With hindsight, you can see where his career was going,” writes Dangerous Minds’ Paul Gallagher, “but by 1967, the teenager’s first recording career had come to a halt after the release of his oddment Laughing Gnome after which, Bowie didn’t release a record for another two years.” Having studied under Lindsay Kemp, Bowie placed himself well to appear in the famed English mime’s 1967 production of Pierrot in Turquoise or, The Looking Glass Murders. Bowie didn’t just act in it, but also wrote and performed its music. You can watch several clips of a 1969 production of the show captured by Scottish television, including the songs “Columbine,” “The Mirror,” and “Threepenny Pierrot.” (This Youtube playlist rounds up all the Bowie music from the show available.)

As much work as the young Bowie took on for Pierrot in Turquoise, he didn’t star in it. The title role of the Commedia dell’Arte’s beloved sad clown went to Kemp himself, though in 1976, Bowie declared himself as playing it in his career as a whole, through all his various personae: “I’m Pierrot. I’m Everyman. What I’m doing is theatre, and only theatre. What you see on stage isn’t sinister. It’s pure clown. I’m using myself as a canvas and trying to paint the truth of our time.” So we perhaps can’t speak of “Bowie the singer” and “Bowie the actor” after all — if they were inseparable back then, surely they’ve always been. And if Ziggy Stardust (in whose concerts Kemp performed) doesn’t count as theatre, what does?

via Dangerous Minds

Related Content:

Ricky Gervais Creates Outlandish Comedy with David Bowie

David Bowie Stars in a Classic Performance of Bertolt Brecht’s Baal (1982)

The Story of Ziggy Stardust: How David Bowie Created the Character that Made Him Famous

Colin Marshall writes on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.


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