The Keystone Cut Ups Live Performance Commission


The Keystone Cut Ups was commissioned by Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival in July 2010, created in 9 weeks, and premiered at The Maltings Theatre, Berwick-Upon-Tweed, UK, at the festival Opening Gala. For background on the Berwick commission please read here.


The Keystone Cut Ups is a live performance that combines video-collage with an original musical score, created using sampling and live instrumentation, to explore the aesthetic, contextual and stylistic relationships between early silent-comedy and early avant-garde cinema.

Using the influence of slapstick comedy on the Surrealists as a starting point, the piece takes us on a madcap journey, combining the techniques and popular imagery of the two genres.

The Surrealists took to cinema easily, using it as a device to show their disdain for established artistic tradition. In their quest to liberate the imagination, they believed that the process of juxtaposing unrelated elements would create images of great emotional and poetic power. Thomas Pynchon wrote, “one could combine inside the same frame, elements not normally found together to produce illogical and startling effects”.

In early silent films the actors often came from the Vaudeville tradition. They used flamboyant body language and facial expressions, a style suited to melodramatic comedy, which was popular at the time for its escape value. The earliest films were influenced by the presentation methods of theatre and the stage sets and inclusion of orchestras and dancers were motifs of entertainment that stuck throughout cinema’s evolution.

The Keystone Cut Ups employs a surrealist approach, presenting images side by side on the screen at the same time. It includes the everyday objects, such as top hats or umbrellas that were utilized as props by both slapstick comedians and the Surrealists, as well as reflecting the concerns of the day like mass industrial automation, and the stories made popular through film at the time, which included clunky monsters and the fantasy of trips to the moon.

The work reflects simultaneously on the histories of these two distinct schools of cinema and how they influence one another, whilst producing a work whose structure and format is informed by both silent comedy and early experimental and avant garde cinema. – Iain Pate


This work is now available for touring (cinemas and theatres only), please contact us for further details.


Download a section here

Like my favourite pieces of Art, it fuelled my imagination as I got lost in both the images and often fantastical music on stage. When it ended, I felt like I had been rudely awakened from one of those cool, euphoric dreams we sometimes have: disappointed to be woken up so soon.Observealot

The duo couldn’t have hoped for a better reception as they took their bows and to quote one man sitting behind in the audience, “it was absolutely fantastic.” Berwick Advertiser


The Keystone Cut Ups (People Like Us & Ergo Phizmiz) in Aesthetica Magazine (September 2010)

The Keystone Cut Ups (People Like Us & Ergo Phizmiz) in The Scotsman (September 2010)

The Keystone Cut Ups (People Like Us & Ergo Phizmiz) in IDMb News (September 2010)

The Keystone Cut Ups (People Like Us & Ergo Phizmiz) in The Guardian Guide (September 2010)

Interview and feature about The Keystone Cut Ups (People Like Us & Ergo Phizmiz) in Berwick Advertiser (September 2010)

Interview and feature about The Keystone Cut Ups (People Like Us & Ergo Phizmiz) in Kyeo TV (September 2010)
Review of The Keystone Cut Ups (People Like Us & Ergo Phizmiz) in Observealot (September 2010)


“Perpetuum Mobile” and “Ghosts Before Breakfast” – album download and a new soundtrack to Hans Richter’s film
“Rhapsody in Glue” – album download
“Screen Play” – live soundtrack to Christian Marclay’s film


Over the past five years the collaboration of People Like Us & Ergo Phizmiz has produced two full length albums, a podcast series, a live soundtrack to Christian Marclay’s “Screenplay”, a 7” single on Touch, and a 10” EP. Their work has been disseminated internationally to widespread critical acclaim, straddling the absurd with the accessible, filtering experimental and avant-garde techniques through the looking-glass of humorous pop music. They have come to resemble something akin to the Morecambe & Wise of the avant-garde…

Individually both artists have produced a vast body of work that collectively spans hundreds of hours, across film, theatre, albums, radio and live performance. Most recently People Like Us released the album “Music For The Fire” in collaboration with Wobbly on the Illegal Art label (with a new solo record due later in the year). Ergo’s most recent productions are the new album “Things to Do and Make” on Care in the Community Recordings, and the contemporary opera about radio, magic and death “The Mourning Show”.

People Like Us website –
Ergo Phizmiz website –
“… a freeform, unfolding imaginary landscape that is liberally peppered with slapstick.” – Phil England, The Wire
“Bennett has taken Eisenstein’s montage collisions and refashioned them as bumper cars at a seaside carnival.” – Jim Supanick, Film Society of Lincoln Center
“Genuinely astonishing” – Boomkat
“Hilarious, but also fascinating…audacious, kaleidoscopic pop assemblages” – Brainwashed
“Beautiful, compelling, funny, crazy stuff” – Matt Groening