By Anthony Robers
Director of Colchester Arts Centre 

I invented The Great Antonio in on 3rd February 2010.

How I bitterly, oh so very bitterly I regret that day. I have tried to kill him off so many times in so many different ways since that fateful day. But he keeps coming back. He simply refuses to do the decent thing and fall on his sword.

I blame Steve. Yes Steve, the friendly and seemingly innocuous manager of Mailbox on St John Street. It’s all his fault. It’s down to you Steve. You’re in the dock on this one son. And the verdict’s guilty. Guilty you hear me? You’re to blame for blighting my life with The Great Antonio.

Steve’s crime is that he performed a very entertaining bed of nails act at the Mercury Theatre in 2010. He then followed this up by making himself unavailable for the Variety Night at the arts centre the following month - although he made the bed of nails prop itself available.

This left me with a bit of a quandary. Who could I get to perform the act in Steve’s absence? All my frantic phone calls were to no avail - and so eventually and reluctantly The Great Antonio was born.

I have been performing the bed of nails act regularly ever since.

People ask me what’s the secret to laying down on the bed of nails and having someone stand on you. Well here’s the secret. I don’t mind telling you. There is no secret. It’s flipping painful.

On the first occasion the adrenaline of the performance and the novelty of the whole situation carried me through. It doesn’t now.

This isn’t so much a case of suffering for your art, as just suffering.

His latest outing will be on Friday 21st September at Colchester Arts Centre. I’ve been invited by a disparate group of local community leaders to join their celebration event. The gig, entitled “If It’s QWrong, Change It” is an all inclusive call to get involved in your local communities, to come together, to turn off the telly or the computer and make a difference.

The Great Antonio shares the bill with top local bands Pet Needs, Tundra, Feedback and Lighthouse Jam. Also appearing will be poet Mike Harwood and some lovely Syrian food.

Tickets are £5, £3 available on line or on the box office on 01026 500900