about wet paint
reviews / press
about chris ward
- Front cover from 'Time
- Front cover (colour) from 'Time
- Clipping from 'The
Stage' 19th June 1986
- Clipping from 'Ham
and High' January 1986
- Interview from 'Pavement'
- Link to the cinema of 'Derek
Born: Toronto, Canada, 1958
Aged seventeen Chris started working back-stage at musical theatre productions in the West End, including Andre Previn and Johnny Mercerís GOOD COMPANIONS where he collaborated with the musician/composer David Carter on a musical based on the life of Lillie Langtry four songs from which were recorded by Marti Webb in 1976.
The following year his apprentice work IN SEARCH OF OPHIR was given a semi-staged performance at the Young Vic under the direction of Denise Coffey, with design by Pamela Marre and a cast including among others, Andrew Vishnevski. Set under the tyrannical dictatorship of The Professor it tells of Tambling, a young museum attendantís search for the mythical land of gold that lies within the souls of others.
From 1979 Ė 1982 he attended a three year diploma course at the London International Film School (LIFS) during which his first play was produced at Pentametres Theatre, Hampstead. VERMOUTH (1979) was
a bohemian study in love and rivalry between two transatlantic sisters. Directed by Chrisí friend the actor/director Julian Sands and designed once again by Pamela Marre. It was during this spell at LIFS that Chris met and worked with film director Derek Jarman. They spent the next couple of years involved with several projects, CAMBERWELL BEAUTY, based on Chrisí play of same name, as a vehicle for Toyah Willcox and DIAMOND TEARS about Jean Cocteau passion for the young writer Raymond Radiguet for a proposed South Bank Show. Although completed, these were never filmed.
In January 1981 Chris joined the Half Moon Writers workshop under the direction of Nick Hamm. After intermittent spells with the RSC under Walter Donohue and Rob Ritchie at the Royal Court. The following April saw the premiere at the Cockpit Theatre, London of DEMONSTRATION OF AFFECTION, a visceral exploration of love and hate among the punk generation starring Richard Jobson, singer with punk band THE SKIDS. It transferred to the Arts Theatre in the West End soon after with the singer Honey Bane joining the cast and re-directed by Jonathan Moore. November of that year, saw CASTLES IN SPAIN open at the New End Theatre, Hampstead with John Stratt as Jiffy the doomed petrol-pump attendant in a grim Dostoevskian tale set in Camden town.
After graduating from LIFS in 1982 having completed two shorts, one called Quid with John Altman and a documentary about a Sunday league football team which he used to play for called Vospers Boys (1980). Chris threw himself back in to the theatre once more with two plays running simultaneously on the London fringe. Both were produced in the summer of 1982 with PLASTIC ZION at the Finborough Theatre with punk star Beki Bondage from the band Vice Squad as the feisty hanger-on-cum-groupie Dagmar. The other, CAMBERWELL BEAUTY at Pentameters Theatre, Hampstead with Kath Rogers in the lead as the singer Netta who suffers a near fatal accident which ends up transforming her looks with tragic results.
It was during this time that Chris officially formed WET PAINT THEATRE COMPANY for what was to be, its most daring experimental stage by performing scenes from his work around the country as a support to rock bands in an attempt to reach a non-theatre going audience and partly to assuage Chrisí disgust with theatrical elitism. The first of these took place at Leicester University in 1982 with the gothic band Bauhaus, many appearances followed around the rock gig circuit included Heaven nightclub with Wasted Youth and the Windmill Theatre with the UK Subs. Even performing at the Blue Coat Boy pub, Angel, to often hostile neo-Nazi audiences. One particular event (Nights to slash your wrists by at Grove Theatre, Hammersmith) offered free door admission if punters adopted the suggestion. During this time Chris started using performers from periphery rock bands and other artistic mediums in preference to trained actors in an attempt to discover a more a realistic way of interpreting his particular brand of passionate poetic drama.
His next play AMPHIBIOUS BABIES (1983) was presented at the New Globe Theatre in the West End telling a story of pacifist junkie Geneva who shields mis-fits and outcasts in her country mansion while outside Britain has become a bleak totalitarian state controlled by a mysterious military junta. Ross Boatman was the punk-poet Biff and Ruth Radish from the anarchist all female punk band Hagar The Womb as Burgundy, a CB radio waif.
What followed that autumn was his most ambitious work to date, a theatrical staging of his vibrant screenplay based on the live of French anarchist film director Jean Vigo, Love is a Revolution with a cast of 17 using stills, projection, dance and music at a small venue near Portobello Road. The play was also performed in conjunction with Vigoís films at the Scala Cinema, Kings Cross with TV music presenter Marc Issue (who had reviewed Wet Paint Theatre for Channel 4ís youth programme The Switch) as the intense film maker and Rena Jugati as his wife Lydou. And despite arousing interest among directors of the calibre of Lindsey Anderson and Francois Truffaut failed to generate enough financial backing for the project. Chrisí own version, having secured Nick Cave as Vigo and writer Kathy Acker as Genya (Lydouís sister), still wasnít enough to salvage the situation but would have been an intriguing prospect. The stage version of LOVEíS A REVOLUTION was eventually the basis of the 1999 film by Julian Temple VIGO, PASSION FOR LIFE.
1984 saw Wet Paint Theatre take AMPHIBIOUS BABIES on tour to the Melkweg in Amsterdam with Chris being hailed as Ďone of the voices of a new theatrical generationí by Time Out magazine whose offices and editors the previous year had been pelted with eggs in response to adverse comments about productions they hadnít even seen by members of the company.
In the same year, taking up residency at the Metropolitan Pub in Farringdon Road, and culminating in the premiere of CAT FOOD, a colourful explosion set in and among a womenís only commune and the chaos that ensues when a motorcycle messenger, grieving for his dead friend and a psychic DJ Samurai (played by writer/director James Martin Charlton in his first stage appearance) gate-crash and reinvent the party. The play was also performed in a festival held at the Metropolitan (Whatís All This? Letís Be Liberal And Tolerate Them Shit) which different bands appearing every night (usually with a anarcho-punk bias such as Conflict, Sub-Humans, Icons of Filth, Rubella Ballet, Omega Tribe and Brigadage, whoís singer Michelle appeared as Burgundy in a revival of AMPHIBIOUS BABIES in 1985).
1985 saw Chrisí new play PLANET SUICIDE (Victoria Theatre, Camden Town) set in the Kings Cross amusement arcade among the disadvantaged and dispossessed. From drugs to sado-masochism, thalidomides to universal suicide, freak-shows to abortion, Camus existentialism to verdis opera, this nihilistic work spews something out about them all. The rest of 1986 saw revivals of DEMONSTRATION OF AFFECTION and CAMBERWELL BEAUTY, where the musician Max Splodge played Nettaís opportunist boyfriend Griffin to great acclaim including performances at the Zap Club in Brighton.
In 1987 VERMOUTH was revived and followed by a new work FURIOUS HOLIDAY (Goldhawk Theatre, Shepherds Bush) about a group of disparate terrorists, each with their own personal agenda who attempt to bomb, kill and maim their way into Nirvana. A difficult and unwieldy play, itís unleashing on the public passed almost unnoticed.
The six years saw a constant disbanding and reforming of Wet Paint due to Chris suffering close, personal bereavements prompting a semi-withdrawal from the limelight of the theatre world.
Eventually, after a long absence, 1994 saw Chris write and direct GODS DRUMMING, a sardonic look at a once celebrated but now forgotten literary lionessí planned suicide and its effect on her motley crew of parasitical associates. Their tangled lives are unwoven and resolved by the mythological Mr Europe, a bureaucratic ape in a suit who like Prospero, sets their worlds to right. Jenny Runacre, the screen actress (Jarmenís JUBILEE and Antonioniís THE PASSENGER) gave a tour de force performance as Verity, the embittered wordsmith. Also that year was a revival of AMPHIBIOUS BABIES presented by Fireworks Theatre Company with Keith Lee Castle as Biff and Caroline Burns Cooke as Geneva, directed by James Martin Charlton.
1996 saw a re-working of another screenplay for the stage ETHEL AND GRABS performed at the Enterprise Theatre Theatre, Chalk Farm. Set among the drop-outs of the 1950ís Soho jazz scene, told in flashbacks on a transatlantic liner by a drunk and washed-up nightclub singer the eponymous Ethel Lee. We follow her beginnings from northern poverty and an obsession with Billie Holiday to the bight lights of sleazy Soho and love affair with saxophonist Grabs whos desperation and ambitious dream of success, coupled with a heroin addiction eventually kills him.
2000 saw the Julian Temple film of VIGO, PASSION FOR LIFE based on Chrisí play Love is a Revolution starring James Frain and Romane Bohringer.
In 2006 Plastic Zion was performed at the White Bear Theatre by Fireworks Theatre Company, directed by James Martin Charlton.
In 2008 Chris reformed Wet Paint Theatre Company for a 25th anniversary production of DEMONSTRATION OF AFFECTION at performance art space The Foundry, Old Street. The play will also be seen as part of the Shoreditch Shuffle Festival in September 2008. Chris is also currently in pre-production for a short film entitled WHAT SHALL WE DO WITH THE DRUNKEN SAILOR? (an episode in the life of the artist/model Nina Hamnett) with the chanteuse Siobhan Fahey (ex Bananarama and Shakespeares Sister).
Filming has been completed on 'What Shall
We Do With The Drunken
Sailor' (based on the life of artist/model Nina
Hamnett) and is now in post-production. The cast includes Siobhan
Fahey, Benjamin Jason
Reeves, Clive Arrindell, Donny
Tourette and Honeybane among others. Written/Directed by Chris Ward . Producer
James Martin Charlton. There will be a rough cut private screening
sometime late September 2008.