About

What is Shaolin Punk?

Shaolin Punk is a small theatre company started by Ben McKenzie. Its purpose is to produce the sort of theatre Ben would like to see produced: comedy which has a brain, drama which exercises the imagination and fantasy that embraces science. It’s also an outlet for projects which fall under the bailiwick of Ben’s comedy persona, the Man in the Lab Coat.

How can I contact Shaolin Punk?

The easiest method is to email Artistic Director Ben McKenzie at ben@shaolinpunk.net; you can also keep up to date via the Shaolin Punk Facebook group.

Why “Shaolin Punk”?

The name is a pun on “shaolin monk”, and combines two seemingly disparate concepts.

Shaolin is a buddhist sect originating in China almost 1500 years ago. The Shaolin Monks would likely have faded into obscurity, had not their leader, Tamo, devised a series of exercises to strengthen their bodies and enhance their flow of ch’i, which eventually became the martial art Kung Fu (or Gung Fu). Shaolin.com, official homepage of the Shaolin Gung Fu Institute, contains quite a good history of the order and its philosophy. They also answer what may well be the most important question of our time.

Punk is slang term which has fallen severely out of fashion which means a small-time criminal or insolent child. These days, of course, it’s best known as the name of the style of “raw minimal rock music”, and the anti-establishment counter-culture that embraced it, which originated in Britain circa 1976. (Punk has spawned almost as many sub-genres as metal; the most popular modern punk derivative is pop punk, of which Green Day are the chief exponents.) I used to recommend House of the Rising Punk as a primer but it’s changed its name and transformed into a community message board with no historical information. This is a case where Wikipedia does a pretty good job.

Two kinds of rebellion, of counter-thinking, and the intention is for Shaolin Punk to produce works that are counter to conventional thought. Sometimes only in small ways, and not every show will seek to change the world or even the audience’s minds, but I hope every Shaolin Punk show will be surprising or at least leave the audience with the feeling that no-one else would have produced what they just saw.

While I don’t like puns as a general rule, I do like this one, and it seems quite popular; other Shaolin Punks have sprung up independently, indicating that either convergent evolution can also apply to ideas, that Yeats was on the money with his version of the collective unconscious, or – perhaps most likely – that it was a pretty obvious and cool name. Some of the other Shaolin Punks, unconnected to this one, include:

  • Shaolin Punk Custom Figures – this guy makes awesome zombie figurines.
  • There’s at least one band named Shaolin Punk and this one, from San Diego, is pretty good.
  • shaolinpunk.com – it’s been coming for a long, long time – at least five years by my reckoning – so I hope it’s good when it finally arrives.