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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