Text Akim A.J. Willems
“I wouldn’t mind appearing on the cover of Vogue.” Mr. Pustra aims for no less than the sky when he is asked about his goal for 2012. Knowing one should never run before one can walk, he tests the waters with an interview for Et Alors? Magazine.
We caught up with the UK based performer, artist, musical saw player & video editor after a trip to Rome where he taught a “vaudeville & variety masterclass”, which can only mean that he’s good at what he does. No wonder our curiosity was aroused: who is this Mr. Pustra? “I was always shy and insecure. I just day dreamed most of my time and pretended to be someone else, be it no one in particular though. Gradually, my confidence grew during my 20’s so I was a late bloomer as they say. I feel more assured with the person I am today and I owe it to performing. Being Mr. Pustra has made me more at ease and people seem to respond well to him. Or me? I get confused. Mr Pustra “is” me. But he just looks better.”
Mr. Pustra discovered cabaret and vaudeville by chance. “I always liked comedy, and vaudeville was an unknown term on the neo-burlesque scene in London circa 2006. On a side note: nowadays everyone and their goats refer to their acts as “vaudeville”; no bitterness here as you can tell. But anyway: in those days “Pustra/Vile-een” was born, a double act that quickly established itself as a refreshing, strange and highly talented duo with a twist of a sideshow. We split in late 2009. Later on I reinvented myself as Mr Pustra, Vaudeville’s Darkest Muse.” A “dark” muse? Is he angry, evil, melancholic or perhaps depressed? “Mr. Pustra started out as an “evil sideshow character” with a background in the circus which we used in my show “Villains”. And yes, he also has a melancholic or tragic side to him. He has developed into an almost real person rather than a fantasy.”
Although his family was absolutely not into music or theatre – “Not at all!” – Mr. Pustra has a background in theatre and fine arts. “I studied ‘Theatre’ and had a few years of education in the “Fine Arts”; that helped me all the way. I learned to do everything myself and hone my various skills. It’s bloody exhausting, I can reveal that much.” That background is also noticeable in his influences. There are, of course, the obvious instigations for cabaret/vaudeville artists: circus side shows, American vaudeville, German countertenor Klaus Nomi, German dancer, actress, writer and prostitute Anita Berber, movie stars Marlene Dietrich and Charlie Chaplin or the Berlin Weimar “kabarett” scene of the 1920’s and 1930’s. But Pustra also lists painters such as Otto Dix, Edgar Dégas or Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
‘Being Mr. Pustra has made me more at ease and people seem to respond well to him.’
“I used to be a painter myself; the images that these artists created represent dreamlike scenes I often experience. Their work has style and story that I greatly admire and draw from.” “If I could ask any of my “heroes” – dead or alive – a question, I would ask Dietrich to give me make-up tips and Nomi to give me singing lessons. Dietrich’s make-up was flawless. She also was fearless and a very strong female role model for women and men alike. I admire Nomi for his incredible falsetto vocal range. To top it all off his stage persona was fiercely enigmatic and original.”
Mr. Pustra has performed in New York, Frankfurt, Rome, Berlin, Basel, Dublin, Strasbourg, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Paris and in many more cities. “But London is ‘the’ place to be for cabaret. It is vibrant although somewhat jaded. I have a love/hate relationship with London. It’s like an ex-lover you can’t stand but still want. Know what I mean? Paris and Berlin have smaller scenes, but offer different delights and treats.” His newest show is called Kabarett der Namenlosen (i.e. Cabaret of the Nameless). “It’s a work in progress and inspired by the Berlin cabaret of the Weimar Republic. This is a show about Beauty, Glamour, Depravity and Melancholy. Sounds nice, non? It is not a solo project. I would want to include performer Vicky Butterfly and actor Benjamin Louche for different reasons. For now, I perform at various other shows with smaller acts and cameos.” To round up we end with a similar question as we started: what are his long term goals? “A house in the south of France. Or maybe in Los Angeles, but I certainly would have lots of cats. And a naked butler!”Don’t forget to call us when you’ve moved there. We will come and visit.
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