Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Laughing with the Nude

This photo is just one of a rich selection featured on a Spanish language blog called Photomanifiesto, published by Nicola Rocco. They record a theatre production of José Vicente Díaz Rojas' “Al Natural,” directed by José “Pepe” Domínguez. The play is about two contrasting brothers battling over an island paradise inheritance. Idealistic Renato is delighted that the inheritance happens to be a nudist retreat, but money-grubbing Ali wants to waste no time in turning it into a tourist resort. Reluctantly shedding his clothes, Ali visits the retreat in order to convince Renato of the error of his ways.

Looking at these charming photos, it's hard to escape the feeling that nudity is sorely underused in stage comedy. Decades of saucy end-of-the-pier entertainments are to blame, where bras pop off, trousers fall down and the audience are sexually titillated by a glimpse of flesh. In that situation, if you are laughing at all, you're laughing at the nude (or, in the essential prudishness of such entertainments, the topless or scantily clad.)

In this staging of “Al Natural,” you're laughing with the nude. Partly that's because the nudists, with their shared hippie-like ethos, outnumber the textile intruders. But it's also because the unadorned human body brings a new dimension to the characters. It makes them both less and more than the people we meet on the street. The vulnerability on display comically undercuts their pretensions and aspirations, but at the same time their revealed bodies speak to us on a sensual level, awakening our sympathy and tenderness. They become like characters in a Mozart opera, wrapped in lovely music.

For the actors, it must be both exhilarating and frightening to allow their bodies to sing to the audience in this way. The actress in the photo shown here strikes me as someone who has already mastered this new art. She combines delightful poise with a birdlike tension in the way she holds herself, a hint of defensiveness in the long curls tumbling over her breasts.

If anyone is arranging or taking part in a stage comedy featuring non-sexual nudity, why not write in and tell us about it?


  1. Beautiful Stage Nudity I like very much as Nudist.
    Bernie from Switzerland

  2. The first play I was ever in (outside of grade school) was JONATHAN based on Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingston Seagull. The costuming (white leotards) was not working to distinguish Jonathan from the rest of the flock and we tried everything until the director, in the middle of a rehearsal, instructed I try it nude. I was so new to theater I assumed I would look like an amateur if I said no, plus I had read that nudity was a costume when on stage, so I went off stage, removed my leotards and came back nude, but it was very difficult for me. The first time you feel more nude than you could imagine. Not just vulnerable, nude. Eventually I got through it but its not as easy if you're the only actor on stage without clothes. Eventually I got over it and the play was a hit. It was only scheduled to run for a week so we didn't even have understudies, but we ended up doing a full month. It turned out to be the best experience I ever had and it gained me confidence on stage I would never have had. I should add that I found being nude in front of the theater group more difficult than the audience since I didn't really see faces in the audiences and almost all the audience were strangers to me. Even though, by the last week my sister, her friends, my neighbors and my co-workers had all seen me perform in the buff so one gets used to it quickly. But as we progressed it was the bond and support from the group that made it easier. Later I was in the play LIFE STUDY playing a nude model in a classroom where the point of reference of the audience changes as each scene places the model in a different location and position on stage even though in the world of the play his podium remains in the middle of the classroom. In LIFE STUDY there are two scenes lasting about 4-minutes each that uses the nudity sexually (one a frank discussion by two of the students while drawing the body and the other a dream sequence where the teacher seduces the model), but the rest of the play is non-sexual as would be expected in an art class. Two local plays in California doesn't make me an expert but I suppose more so than a lot of other people. And my experiences were different since I was the only person nude, unlike the examples on this blog. However, my experience is that the other actors are even more nervous trying to stay respectful and obverting their stares to the point of distraction so its up to the nude actor to let everyone know you're okay with the situation. As one of my mentors told me, you let them take a look then get on with it. If one is an actor I would highly recommend them finding a nude role on stage, it will change their perception even in clothed roles. And to make things clear, I'm not a nudist and very conservative about such things, limiting my nudity to the stage.