Chris Thompson was a Community Arts graduate from LIPA who died 5 years ago this week: but some images of Chris which have stayed with me over the last 15: images which suggest a powerful, creative, expressive artist who didn’t pay much attention to the rules, who didn’t know when to stop – but who did know intuitively and compulsively how to capture, thrill and entertain an audience.
Watching Chris in rehearsal or on stage, you always had the sense that he was about to take you on a roller coaster of theatrical thrills and spills – he’d tear off your safety harness, lock you into the front seat – and then, like a figurehead at the bow of a ship, perform to blazes, completely fearless in his imagination and shameless in his performance.
As a 1st year student wielding a large kitchen knife borrowed from the LIPA canteen one Friday afternoon; as an actor pleasuring himself in the window of the college library during performances of The Tin Drum; and as film actor in My Life as an American, Chris’s muse and inspiration – Frank Zappa – was always close to hand – and we, his audience, were privileged to see our very own extreme Geordie artist in action: and we will miss that energy, imagination and vivacity. As Zappa said in the International Times in 1970 once he’d dissolved the band which took him to international prominence – and as Zappa might have said of Chris himself: The Mothers of Invention, infamous & repulsive rocking teen combo, is not doing concerts any more. Frank – you’re in good company with Mr. Thompson – make sure he’s still riding that roller coaster when we join you both and when it’s our time to leave the funfair.