The Full Monty

By Randy Gledhill

Paul Hurley, untitled  PHOTO Henry Chan
Paul Hurley, untitled PHOTO Henry Chan

The set-up

Three farmyard buckets equal distance to form a triangle. Each containing something. One sprouts Blue Hydrangia. A black leather jacket. A bottle of red wine. And a pair of gold lame stiletto heel shoes, as worn by a woman or someone pretending to be.

On with the Show

Paul Hurley, hails from Leeds, England, a greasy ex-industrial revolution Midlands city. Good Dickens. He removes his hipster jewelry, shoes, shirt, pants, to stand stark naked before us. Then he does the ridiculous. He attaches tiny bells to his ankles, dumps a bucket of of black soil on the floor, inverts the empty bucket over his head, and proceeds to attempt to stand in the dirt on his tippy-toes. Having established the first absurdity, he dons the hi heels and… starts to clog dance, those silly little bells jingling with each move.  Crossing over to the second bucket, blind now with the first still over his head, he holds the Hydrangia high in victory and continues to dance for us. He removes the bucket, and, with a shy seductive smile, offers a flower to the ladies of the audience. All are charmed by this handsome, naked man in drag queen shoes. Some even blush.

Now on to the business. Hurley unfurls a blank wallpaper roll across the floor and dunks his noggin into the final bucket. When he reemerges, his head from eyes to crown is covered in thick, gooey white paint. He crouches low to commit his head to the paper. Slowly, with deliberation and some exertion, he proceeds to paint a stripe along the entire length of the paper with his head, pausing to reload his cranial brush in the bucket, as needed.

The Finale

How can this get more ridiculous, I wonder. Princess is giggling with glee. Hurley now puts on the black leather jacket and conjures handfuls of multi-coloured feathers from his pockets, which he skillfully applies to his paint-soaked head. La pièce de résistance. Standing before us now, naked except the jacket, in gold hi heels, bells on his ankles, with a new mantle of feathers, he strikes a glamorous pose.

I love a clown show, but this is not that. There is, of course a subtext, history, and intention. Self-humiliation is a generous act, and having the nerve to go the whole monty and more in public takes balls (excuse the pun). Hurley is acting out what he is, by tapping the great English traditions from Music Hall, to Punch and Judy and Monte Python. He is at the same time referencing grotesque social criticism as employed by a legion of ‘bad’ artists from the Kipper Kids to Matchbox Purveyors, to Paul McCarthy and Mike Kelly.

Later, cleaned up and enjoying a pint with the gang, I noticed a glint in the artist’s eye that he had previously kept a little more veiled. As the participants in turn perform and reveal themselves to each other, a new kind of camaraderie and bond is building. Each has let down their guard to one another. I can feel that the storm of a legendary party is brewing. Tonite, after the serious stuff, plans are afoot to crash the notorious Toronto Latino drag club, El Convento Rico. I can hardy wait. Princess is already in a tizzy.


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