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| 18 February 2014 | Reply

Playing at PICA Bar, 18-22 February 2014

Mark Storen - The Polite Gentleman.  Photo by Daniel Gallagher-3

Perth artist Mark Storen reprises his Blues-based soul-selling show The Polite Gentleman at PICA Bar from the 18th to 22nd February 2014.

The Crossroads legend of a bluesman selling his soul to The Devil is older than the blues itself, dating back to medieval times, but the story of Delta guitarist and singer Robert Johnson perhaps popularised the tale more than any other.

Storen says his story takes from the traditional tale and puts more than one twist in the tail.

“It’s a story about a man named Mouse,” Storen explains, “who wakes up one day wanting more from his life. He’s prayed to a God he no longer believes in, somehow his prayers get diverted – enter The Polite Gentleman. The Devil comes in many disguises, in this case he’s a chicken who offers Mouse a way to make the disappointment with his life stop. Like always, it never turns out quite like Mouse had hoped.”


Storen says he has long been enthralled by the blues legend.

“I’ve always been a fan of the blues. I think the story telling aspect always appealed to me. I’ve also had a fascination with God and the Devil, I feel like they might be great mates who had a disagreement about how to manipulate mankind. Maybe they made a bet with each other to try their own unique approach on humanity, coming back to discuss the success of their different approaches. The Robert Johnson Crossroads story has a great wanting, a desire to change one’s lot in life and certainly appeals to me as a point of departure for my story.

“I’m a massive fan of the [1986 Hollywood movie starring Ralph Macchio] movie Crossroads and the mythology,” Storen continues. “To be honest over the years out of my own interest in this kind of mythology and the blues music, I think I’d built up a certain amount of knowledge about this particular history. I think this certainly permeated The Polite Gentleman as I was writing it. I was listening to Robert Johnson’s Crossroads along with a lot of other great songs about dealings with the devil, so the idea of making a pact with the devil for a talent or power is very much present in my work, and influenced by the Robert Johnson story. Having said that The Polite Gentleman has it’s own unique take on the idea of bargaining with the devil. For a start The Devil in my story is a chicken!”

The story is perhaps most interesting in the context of it dating back in some form or another as far back as Faust in the 16th Century – Storen agrees that the themes are as old as time itself.

“One of the things I talk about in the show is how men have always been victims of their desires and their vanity,” he declares, “I think we are always reaching for validation, to be remembered for having great impact on the world around us. We are never satisfied with our lot in life always reaching for more, often at a cost. I think it’s been a recurring theme throughout history. There’s something appealing about an otherworldly talent too and the story behind that. Seeing some artists and thinking, they’re either in bed with the big guy in the sky, or the fella holding the pitchfork, cause that just ain’t natural!”

So THAT explains Bieber, perhaps. Certainly one can almost look on the Crossroads legend as an allegory of an old school record contract – sell your soul to the Devil for the ability to be heard by millions, then go and die penniless…

“Agreed!” exclaims the writer, who performs the one man show and plays guitar throughout. “Yep, it’s not uncommon, many great artists across genres, only recognised after they die with nothing to rub together. Maybe that’s how the story started!”

The Polite Gentleman

Storen also agrees that the mystique of the old Blues trailblazers carry a lot of appeal for someone as creative as himself, who is a writer, performer, director and more.

“Yes, very much,” he says. “I love the magic, the broken down weary way of those guys, wine stains on their singlets, mischief in their eyes. So many stories. Raw, honest and rich. It’s extremely appealing.

Originally running in late 2012, Storen says the show is “pretty much the same” this time round, but not identical.

“We have reworked the opening of the show a little and added a couple more songs – so if your coming to see it for the second time you’ll get something a little different!” he teases.

With the show’s declared as ‘absurd, surreal and enthralling’, audiences can expect some surprises up the creator’s sleeve.

“Essentially it’s a pretty simple tale,” elaborates Storen, “but yes, the creative team behind me have a few technical surprises and some beautiful sound, lighting and design elements which help with the flavour of the show. We try to create a sense that the world is magical or otherworldly in some ways. I’ve got a really excellent crew working on the show, I’m very lucky to be working with those guys!”

The big question for the writer/Performer is, if ole skullface came a-calling in any of his guises – chicken or otherwise – would Storen take success and riches in exchange for his soul?

“I’d probably ask it for ID!” he laughs. “If I’m going to sell my soul to someone or something I want to make sure it’s bonafide!”

Never one to sit still, after this run of THE POLITE GENTLEMAN, Storen has more projects coming up.

“This year I’m actually spending some time on more storytelling adventures with an excellent fella by the name of Andrew Weir who did the sound design for The Polite Gentleman. We are hoping to perform these tales in and around town in local pubs. I’m also developing a show with some friends of mine called The Man Who Wished To Give His Wife Everything – written by another excellent fella by the name of Finegan Kruckemeyer.”




Category: Interviews

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