Ian Prior



Here he comes, Kropotkin, tensile, prehensile, the turnstile to the smiles: ladies and gentlemen: KROPOTKIN!…

The twenty-six year old Ian Prior from Nelson, the most graceful town in all New Zealand, utopian centre of the South Pacific.

At age nine, came to the park beside the river: Ridgeways’ Circus, the legendary carnival show that circled the antipodes like a tipsy nebula, wherein a twelve-year-old girl walked the high wire and fell into the net.

From that time through his isolated country school at Parklands Ian drank, played football, painted Che Guevara portraits in the hall, danced on the poppies and never read a book. He was advised at fourteen to leave school and get married.

At the age of nineteen, Ian threw away his life-insurance and abandoned a career proposal towards urban valuation, on the toss of a coin. With his records (Donovan’s Fairytales, Leonard Cohen’s Songs from a Room; religious music) and one dozen alfalfa sandwiches.

He went up to the great university and got his great expectations bruised. During a lecture on Motor Learning, an enraged scholar called Ian the ClassIdiot. Reluctantly and most eventually, Ian graduated with a Diploma in Physical Education. He met the mystic New Zealand Lecoq disciple, Francis Batten, and became a clown, the less distant cousin of the ClassIdiot. He was a witness to the seminal Batten oeuvre The Best of All Possible Worlds. He spent months at the silent movies inhabiting the clown that is all heart. For the clown that disturbs and alienates is the sad clown, it’s like having your hamburger brought to you by a waiter in a wheelchair.

He worked in the university theatres, made laughter in the streets, stormed in the State Opera House, went national for the National Film Unit, and performed at 1976’s Polynesian Festival in Rotorua – the biggest community cultural festival in the Western Pacific. He was arrested once, for protesting sexism in a bad movie made in America called The Mutilator.

He worked as he travelled with his suitcase and in white face around the country suburbs of Dunedin and Auckland. In 1978, he was invited to join Red Mole Enterprises, New Zealand’s legendary punk vaudeville touring roadshow. To support himself he was involved in a number of temporary enterprises, for example: tobacco-picker, fruit-picker, builder’s labourer (but moving inside), salad hand, 1st Cook at Slack Alice’s, psychiatric counsellor, guillotine-operator, window cleaner and ornamental brick cleaner. Once he visited the thornbirds at Cobham on the Murray River in New South Wales.

He read books: Timothy Leary’s Psychedelic Experiences, Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Golding’s Lord of the Flies. He watched Fellini, ran dialectic research over Altman, and fell for The King of Hearts.

Ian Prior was bicyclist, walker, chaser and chessplayer with a portable cassette machine wailing John Cage and leading to Merce Cunningham.

In New York, Ian has started to paint canvases, heavily influenced by van Gogh, Egon Schiele and Hieronymous Bosch. Then he experienced the vast domains of Jackson Pollock and became an acrobat, who coincidentally juggles, fate perhaps.   

KROPTKIN is at present in New York and wishes to present his entertainment to the people. Note: the people. He leaves in April for a European tour with Red Mole Enterprises and White Rabbit Puppet Theatre. In September he will return to New York for a short time as he prepares for a return journey to his native islands.

Says the Press:

‘A satirical brand of humour, light, irreverent, and poignantly controversial’ – Wanganui Herald

‘Staggered at the richness of invention and imagination’ – Act Magazine

’For the future nothing is certain’ – Theatre in New Zealand

(Alan Brunton, Red Mole publicity, New York, 1979; photo by Joe Bleakley)


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2 responses to “Ian Prior

  1. Margaret Cochran

    One summer––1975? at Alister Taylor’s Waiura in Martinborough, Frances Batten and Bridget Brandon came up from the “Honey Cottage” (where they were staying on the property) to join us and Deborah Hunt and Gil McGregor to eat grapes on the verandah. We were staying there with our daughters,19 months and two months. Frances announced with revered seriousness that they had spent their morning looking through the microscope at his sperm. I am about to finish Nick Bollinger’s Jumping Sundays which is a great read and has surfaced many such counter cultural memories––Red Mole and Theatre Action amongst them! Margt


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