James Hullick is confronting the role of the modern man with ‘Le Scatterman’

James Hullick is confronting the role of the modern man with ‘Le Scatterman’

Words by Caitlin Hynes

James Hullick is making his debut onto the Melbourne International Comedy Festival scene with Le Scatterman.

Drawing on inspiration that ranges from the Italian form of professional theatre, known as commedia dell’arte, to Barry Humphries’ Dame Edna, this show asks you to embrace your inner ‘crap dad’. Hullick’s show incorporates elements of stand-up comedy, sound artistry and video to address the struggles of modern role reversals. 

Although not autobiographical, Le Scatterman, first performed in Perth back in 2016, was born from Hullick’s reflections on a life that might have been.

“I wondered about what would happen if life went south and we got divorced. And this show is a collection of my musings,” explains Hullick.

As the sole live performer on stage, Hullick quietly encourages meta-questions surrounding the reality, or surrealism, of Scatterman’s situation. Video is incorporated throughout to depict Scatterman’s ex-wife and children. 

All the while, Hullick also controls all sound and lighting while on stage, giving himself free-wheel drive to allow Le Scatterman to follow its own trajectory. Along this journey, Hullick draws upon his own personal experiences, mirroring musicians who build a concert that isn’t just about the music.

“A lot of musicians back in the day used to do performances where it wasn’t just about the music, but also about the story. So, the show works in a similar way where some things feel a little like silver screen, especially at the end, where we’ve incorporated a showbiz ballad.”

In an era of role reversals and gender awakening, the role of the modern man can be daunting or even incomprehensible. That’s where Le Scatterman comes in and helps us see ourselves for what we are – creatures of habit.

“There are elements of the show that are confronting, and those elements may not be what you think are traditionally confronting. I may walk around in my underwear and a robe, but the real challenge is the different art in this show, where you say pop culture is important whilst I say these other things are just as important. 

“That’s why Scatterman is depressed, because he’s a sound artist but has spent his life being rejected. That’s where it’s challenging. It questions what people think good art is.” 

Le Scatterman follows the protagonist failing to pick up his kids, leaving them and their mother hanging. While they wait, Scatterman entertains with his unapologetic ‘dad-bod’, plenty of booze and various musical numbers that demonstrate Hullick’s extensive talent. To separate Le Scatterman from everyone else, Hullick drew inspiration from non-conventional theatrical methods, including the French born vaudeville and commedia dell’arte.

“I started looking at things like commedia dell’arte where they do improvised sequences but in no fixed order when they get on stage.

“That’s how Le Scatterman works. We use a commedia dell’arte ideal. I wear the mask as well, to reference this connection.” 

Presented by JOLT Arts and Beat, Le Scatterman is the first of a 16-part series titled the Epic Topias Cycle. As a founder of JOLT Arts and a recognised composer, musician, community arts worker, sound artist and director, Hullick’s work is characterised by a distinct capability of using sound to engage in social issues.

“The bottom line of my practice as an artist is – no rules. What if there were no rules imposed on me by others and instead, I impose my own rules?

“What I’ve done is created this organisation [JOLT Arts] so that I can determine how long something runs, because people have become bored with formulaic things. The whole point is to imagine a brighter future and allowing the art to be free.”

Le Scatterman will run during the MICF from Thursday April 16 to Saturday April 18 at Southbank Theatre. Nab your ticket through the MICF website