If you haven't experienced Betty Grumble, you should. If you think you could come up with a creation like Betty Grumble, you can't, unless you are Emma Maye Gibson, because Betty is the most unique force of Sex Clown you will ever behold. And she is here to delight and entertain you and save the world with her fierce love and loving anger.
First up, thank you for taking the time to answer yet more questions. Do you ever get tired of answering questions about yourself? Or do you enjoy this part of the process?
I enjoy the experience. The conversation that art creates should have many tendrils across many mediums. Debate and dialogue encircle practice and we do love a good yarn.
Does the introspection of being asked questions about the nature of your character affect the nature of your character?
It depends on the line of questioning, the mood, the moment. Sometimes you feel strong enough to free dive deep down into your guts for some hard truths. Sometimes you just wanna wriggle across into some solitude. Asking questions about being asked questions is proving trippy today… But I like it.
I have to confess that I chose an email Q & A over a face-to-face because the prospect of meeting Betty Grumble in the flesh is kind of intimidating. Do you find Betty is generally an intimidating presence? Why/why not?
Betty can have that effect. She is a large energy, a fleshy, sensual beast. Some people are drawn into her laugh, some are arrested by it. She allows space for all of these responses and they are all valid. She is monstrous in her way, simultaneous war mask and children’s toy. Betty is going to mean different things for different experiences of the world. The overriding response is ‘give us a squeeze’ but the tension of Grumble’s inner workings - her love and anger - her comedy and horror - gives birth to a storm of energy. She’s a primal one, so I can understand how locking eyes in the jungle with a mythic maiden may induce a quiver. She’s a lover though, first and foremost, there’s always time to sniff each other out. No shame in watching from a distance though… Or not at all.
This is for both of you: What does Betty think of Emma Maye, and what does Emma Maye think of Betty? What aspect of the other do you like/dislike etc. Please answer as though the other was not in the room.
Emma Maye has always spoken about Betty as a survival mechanism. She’s an invocation of the sacred Glamour Spell that has long histories stretching through drag and shamanism. Emma Maye laughs and weeps alongside Betty. Betty gives Emma Maye space to see herself. The mask says ‘look at me’ but also, ‘don’t look at me’. It’s not a mirror so much as a water source, which reflects but you can also submerge into and swim in the other. You have to respect it though, as it can take you under… Performance Art & Sex Clown legend Glitta Supernova calls this phenomenon ‘SHOWCOSIS’. There are healthy and unhealthy cases of Showcosis, where like with any magic, you can go too deep or too far from the spirit into ego. ‘Alright, I’m ready for my close-up, Mr Demille.’ The stage is powerful, you have to respect it. Betty loves Emma Maye, she’s been watching her for some time.
Do you ever have creative differences? If so, how do you resolve these differences?
We have a pretty good symbiotic relationship. You could probably trace a battle of aesthetics through photographs of earlier performances to now. We work a lot with taboo, I think we have learnt a lot about listening to instinct and the world around, together. We have made mistakes together. We try not to chastise each other for it, it’s part of the process. We are open to learning. We are also proud of each other.
Your new show is called Love & Anger. The word I most associate with love is hate. Why Love & Anger?
Anger can be righteous. It’s a moving energy. I feel like hate has arrested itself. It’s stuck. As women, we are often told to ‘calm down’, that we are hysterical or crazy. I think women have a lot of anger, and its justified, we have lived and are living in an ongoing femicide. The feminine spirit has been under attack. The anger we have is in response to this, in can help us, empower us, protect us, ready us for battle, it can also connect us to the sisterhood. The anger doesn’t eat itself or go rancid, it constantly renews itself because it’s so connected to love energy. We are only so angry because we are so full of love, because we know innately how things can be and that the balance is out.
What kind of things stir feelings of love in the heart of Betty Grumble?
Nature, GAIA BABY YEAH. Oh, ole Grumble bum is always perving on the world around, loving that kookaburra cracking itself up on the branch of the white gum. The wind whipping around your thighs, the breath of fellow dancers on a dance floor going in and out. Tenderness incarnate in the human spirit, the resilience of people, the difference in people. I LOVE IT. Betty loves to move and be moved, she loves fantasising about the endless possibilities, thick musical beat, her biological and logical family. Animals, the ecosystem. CAVES! RAIN! It’s raining as we write this now and we want to throw ourselves into the day, mouth open. Love is lurve and love and love and love.
People who try and control other people’s bodies… Or the body of the Earth. Fuck you. Fuck a government so corrupt and conservative they don’t even bury their bigotry, they air it with the kind of arrogance we though we left behind post WWII. Enemies of Grooviness - EAT SHIT.
What are your thoughts on hate?
Hate is going to be born out of fear or trauma. Hate is something we need to face and talk about. There’s too much hate disguised as justice. Not everyone needs to live the same life, but we need to live freely, the lives we desire and deserve. Identify those stepping on the throats of others.
You use the word ecosexual, and there is a theme of the impact humans are having on our fragile ecosystem in your work… what do you think is the fate of humankind?
Part of me believes in the ‘volunteer human extinction program’… That we will suffer the consequence of our selfishness as a species and rightly so… Part of me wants the revolution of consciousness to bring us into harmony with the cosmos. Can it be? I find comfort in the idea that Utopia is in the Struggle, that there is a space for us to live in the here and now in the reaching for the groovier future.
Emma Maye - do you ever forget you are not behind your Betty mask and do or say something that is pure Betty in off-stage reality?
Do you think it would be healthy for everyone to have an alter-ego?
I think its healthy for people to play. Our child spirits need to live in us, too many have been stomped out. It’s all dress ups.
I understand that the name Betty Grumble was inspired by Emma’s grandparents. What would they think about your shows?
Realistically they would be shocked. Now they have passed into the spirit realm, I think they would find it all very funny. I think my Aunty, Lynda Gibson would be laughing the hardest up there, she is a big inspiration to me and I think processed the world a similar way to how I do. She was their daughter and I’m their grand daughter, it’s all connected.
Do you ever see faces in the audience that are genuinely shocked by what they are seeing?
If I’m lucky!
Part of the reason I want to see Love & Anger is to find out if this performance really is as hilarious and outrageous as I remember the last one being. What kind of experience are we in for this time?
Thank you! This is an ongoing womanifesto I say, so you can expect a similar approach to the body and fun, of seriousness colliding with surreal stupidity. You can anticipate seeing Betty shift in different ways, there is a deeper autobiographical approach to this go at it. I’m proud to bring this ceremony to Melbourne, the last run was very loving and I think we are going to make a lot of fun and noise together.
Finally, can you (either of you) tell us something about Betty Grumble you’ve never told anyone before?
She gets scared sometimes.
Betty Grumble: Love & Anger is performing at The Butterfly Club 28 Nov – 3 Dec 2017. Visit thebutterflyclub.com