Nixon Lloyd is referring to Bruce, the puppet character that he and fellow comedian performer Tim Watts dually perform in their new Blue Room show. I’m surprised when I enter the rehearsal room to see two Bruce heads sitting on the table.
The duo explain that after many years the original Bruce head is becoming quite fragile, so they made a second version for the rehearsals and development workshops of their comedic play. Recreating the character unique foam head was a challenge for the team as the attempted to cut his distinctive mouth in the same way and place his ping pong eye balls accurately.
“I was concerned that he wouldn’t look the same,” admits Nixon-Lloyd, “there are so many little things, like the way the foam bulges on the side of his face.”
“It was painstaking trying to get all the details right.” Watts said. At this stage the pair are still debating which of the character’s two heads will be featured in the final show, with the original having the status of a Sunday best suit.
For Tim Watts this is the second theatrical show which has resulted from objects he’s found lying around and started to manipulate. His one man play ‘The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik – Deep Sea Adventurer’ has taken him around the world multiple times since it premiered at The Blue Room a few years ago. Meanwhile Nixon-Lloyd has developed an incredibly successful career in children’s television. Alongside Luke Ryan, he’s completed none series of the Nickelodeon program ‘Camp Orange’. Finding time in their busy schedules to create this new show has been a big challenge for both Watts and Nixon-Lloyd.
The character of Bruce has been around for many years, the duo have performed him at improvisation shows and a memorable late night outing at the Southbound festival a few years back. In the past Bruce’s head and disembodied hands have been performed in the same style as The Muppets’ Swedish Chef. The pair openly admit that Jim Henson and Frank Oz’s Chef was the inspiration for the character.
“A few years ago we went on a massive Muppet binge,” said Watts, “It’s really only the Swedish Chef and Rolf the Dog who are performed with two puppeteers, but they need that dexterity in the hands to cook and play the piano.”
“Not only did we look at the performance, but also the relationship between Henson and Oz,” said Nixon Lloyd, “The Swedish Chef only works because Jim Henson’s doing the head and the voice and Frank just screws with him and says ‘Oh look we’re throwing this up in the air, the heads always behind the hands.”
While in the past Watts has always been in control of Bruce’s head and Nixon-Lloyd has been in charge of the characters arms, for this new show they both spend time controlling the alternate parts of the character. Both agree that being the hands is the fun part of performing the character.
” The hands just get to cause mischief,” Nixon Lloyd said, “the head really has to listen and make decisions, as where the hands can just declare, I’m just going to do this crazy thing now!”
‘Bruce’ is playing now at The Blue Room from November 19 to December 7.