Outside While Inside The Box

Auckland’s Touch Compass dance company, which is New Zealand’s only professional inclusive dance company, put on a series of productions thinking outside the box in 2017—and one special performance by Duncan Armstrong won praise.

The DanceBox series was a collection of eight short dance or theatre based films which encouraged participants to look back on significant moments when life revealed itself to them—and maybe changed everything from that point on.

Duncan Armstrong took inspiration from one of life’s most challenging moments, being bullied at school.

Dressed in striking punk rock garb Duncan releases all of his energy and frustrations into his drumming, and finds solace in this physical activity.

Music and performance have always been a big part of Duncan’s life, and he was lucky to be able to take his production of “Drumming is Like Thunder” to his home town Wellington.
“Drumming is Like Thunder” has won the Most Original Film Award 2016 Sit Down Shutup and Watch Film & New Media Festival’s in Australia.

An interview with the artist, Duncan Armstrong

Duncan Armstrong tells CHAT 21 about his inspirations and thoughts behind “Drumming is Like Thunder”.

What is the inspiration for “Drumming is Like Thunder”?
I write songs , I keep my songs in a note book, I got them out for Catherine Chappell (Touch Compass artistic director) when we were making the film. I love my drum kit – I have played drums for most of my life, drumming is powerful and strong. Like most people with disabilities I have been bullied; music acting and dance are good ways to fight bullying. Catherine Chappell wanted us to make a piece in a box. Touch Compass made lots of work in 2 metre cubes that year—so I used the walls of the box to drum on. The box was kind of like prison or a trap in one way—when the bullies took my drum kit I felt quite desperate, I drummed on walls, then my ukulele saved me .

I love travel and to do a show, performance is my life.

What is your favourite part of “Drumming is Like Thunder”?
By myself drumming on the box.

Your costume for the production is very cool! Tell me how you decided what to wear and how to do your makeup!?
I love to dress as a punk. For my year 12 ball at secondary school I dyed my hair red, and wore leather and mesh and had a great time. For the film, Catherine and I worked it out with some punk stuff I had, and there was a makeup artist who did it and the hair.

Who are your favourite musicians or pop stars?
I love the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Queen, Beyoncé , Neil Young, Bob Marley, Trinity Roots, The Clash, The Undertones, Pokey LaFarge, Phoenix Foundation, Elvis, Johnny Cash, Donald Armstrong (my uncle, he’s a violinist in the NZSO), Ian my dad, he’s a guitarist.

What do you like about acting?
Performance is my life. This year I have been acting in a show in Wellington at Circa theatre called “No Post On Sunday” put on by theatre company Everybody Cool Lives Here. We were five actors, two of us have Down syndrome, two have no disability.

We got great reviews, it was a two week season, a theatre show is great , you are rehearsing with your friends, you have highs and lows together. I love to act, it’s a way of being someone else. It’s a way of showing people – the audience – that people with disabilities can do stuff.