Skrynka Mounts the Wall of Death!

Feb 27 2010 | By More

Stephen Skrynka on the Wall of Death. Photograph: Peter Dibdin

By Thom Dibdin

Stephen Skrynka, the visual artist at the centre of the National Theatre of Scotland’s Wall of Death: A Way of Life has fulfilled a lifetime’s dream and ridden a motorbike onto the wall of death.

The show, which features the Ken Fox Troupe and their wall of death fairground side-show, started in Glasgow three weeks ago. Besides meeting the Fox’s extended family, audiences have witnessed Skrynka’s attempts to emulate his heroes and ride a motorbike up the wall.

“I am really hoping that I can do a whole lap on the wall,” Skrynka told the Annals. “If I can do a whole lap in front of an audience I will be really happy, if I can do more I will be ecstatic.”

Despite several weeks practice, come the opening night Skrynka was still unable to ride the motorbike around the bottom of the wall in public. By the time the show reached Edinburgh last week he was confident enough to ride up onto the 45 degree apron to the wall in public.

And during this week’s practices and shows, he has finally found the confidence to ride up onto the wall itself.

“I’m on the cusp where I have learned some of the very basic skill base you need to build on,” he said. “I have learned through 16 crashes things to do and not to do. It is not just picking yourself up and getting back on the bike: It’s the psychological barrier of getting beyond what ever you have done wrong.”

It has not been easy riding this week. During rehearsals on  Wednesday evening, with Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop scheduled to be in that night’s audience, Skrynka  suffered another fall from the wall, and was unable to get onto the bike for that night’s performance.

By Friday afternoon, however, he was able to rehearse the act in front of photographers and promised that he would be up on the wall in front of the public over the weekend’s performances.

So what was it like the first time he got on the wall?

“For a few seconds it was calm and exhilarating,” he says. “It was sort of liberating: ‘so this is what it is like!’ It is very difficult to describe but somehow it is a bit like when a plane takes off: you are on that crunchy tarmac rumbling along and then suddenly it is fresh air.

“That banking track is very rough and wobbly and bumpy. As soon as you are on the wall, it is just like as smooth as silk. And then it is ‘Oh shit! What do I do now!’ That is the bit I am working on.”

Link – Wall of Death: A Way of Life page on the NTS Website

Run continues to Sunday 28th February


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