Vic Llewellyn and Kid Carpet: The Castle Builder

Chewed bread sculpture, swanee whistles, upside down bicycles, Casio keyboards, record decks, cardboard constructions, dragons – and an out-of-breath middle-aged man with his trousers round his ankles. What more could you want of a Thursday lunchtime in Edinburgh?

The Castle Builder is a show celebrating outsider art and ‘otherness’ in art-making. The celebration is in the form of a performance-lecture, delivered by Desperate Man Vic Llewellyn, on notable outsider artists, this intercut with raucous, punky (in the Ian Dury sense of punky), shouty songs  from Kid Carpet, accompanied by Vic. Meanwhile, Vic’s son is on stage behind a laptop managing the multimedia (and tootling on a trumpet occasionally), and there at the back is their guest artist of the day, Flick Ferdinando, who is banging and hammering and making something marvellous, which will be revealed later.  Yes, it’s kind of chaotic, but very carefully organised chaos. And jolly good fun too!

Our outsider artists include a Norwegian inmate of a psychiatric unit who over five years builds a castle on a remote headland; a wonderful woman called Tressa Prisbrey, who built a ‘bottle village’ of  shrines, walkways, sculptures, and buildings all made from recycled and discarded materials; a man who covers every surface in his home with mosaics of broken china; and the legendary bread chewer. Towards the end of the show, we are issued with slices of Hovis sliced white to make our own works of art.

Along the way, we meet (on screen) a line-up of architects sporting fancy-dress costumes that are facsimiles of the buildings they designed (the Empire State Building and all, I kid you not); and the Nazi’s ‘Degenerate Art’ exhibition which could be viewed as a celebration of all things good in art (Kurt Schwitters, Dada, Outsider Art). Forming a link between the artists and their subject is the story of the Llewelyn family castle – a toy castle built by Vic’s dad for Vic’s son – and here it is, right here on stage! Vic as a veteran street theatre performer is also a bridge between the outsider artists and this theatre space: someone whose work has always sat outside of the usual, narrow definitions of ‘theatre’.

In its mesh of facts and musings about non-gallery art; its marvellous melee of found objects, treasured possessions, and ready-made art; its joyful, messy and exuberant performance mode; The Castle Builder is a wonderful advertisement for the DIY lo-fi ethos of Outsider Art. Behind all the fun and frolics is a serious message. Art is not just for galleries. Art is everywhere, and we are all artists.

Seize the moment, comrades! Make art not war!


 Featured image by Jack Offord.

The Castle Builder is at Summerhall for the duration of the Edinburgh Fringe 2016. See to book tickets.


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Dorothy Max Prior

About Dorothy Max Prior

Dorothy Max Prior is the editor of Total Theatre Magazine, and is also a performer, writer, dramaturg and choreographer/director working in theatre, dance, installation and outdoor arts. Much of her work is sited in public spaces or in venues other than regular theatres. She also writes essays and stories, some of which are published and some of which languish in bottom drawers – and she teaches drama, dance and creative non-fiction writing.