"Gregor Jotzu is one of the finest men I have ever met," says Tom Corcoran of the athlete, aesthete and all-round ‘culture king’. Gregor curates a termly arts event known as The Empty Space. "It’s very open," he explains. He’s not wrong. The Empty Space has featured just about every form of artistic endeavour imaginable, from the relatively conventional – such as photography and poetry – to the more unorthodox. One evening witnessed a young troubadour who had adapted Psalms to blues music; he was followed by an all-singing, all-dancing tribute to Mark Russell, the god-awful American satirist. "It’s for people to present something they wouldn’t want to present in a formal context, or something that’s not in a finalised form."
"The best thing about it is that there’s a lot of time when nothing happens and people talk about the performances. We have all sorts of stuff: a girl playing a banjo, violin and dancing, absurdist comedy." The occasions have a spontaneous feel – one play didn’t have enough actors for the parts, so the director recruited more from the audience. A regular performer at the event is Tom Corcoran. "How do I describe Tom? He’s impossible to sum up," muses Gregor, who once managed to convince Tom that he existed only as a figment of Tom’s imagination.
Tom started out as a guitar-strumming, harmonica-tooting folkie in the Woody Guthrie vein, but has since morphed into a stand-up comedy monster of Godzilla-esqe proportions. His recent performance at The Empty Space, ‘Corcoranism’, was well-received. "It’s like political satire without the politics," he tells me. Part of the performance was his recital of a poem outlining his ideology. "It’s a series of invocations," he says. "Like: let us liberate the homosexuals from the mighty cock of Magdalen, or let us experiment on the animal protesters for our own personal amusement. Or: let us tempt the college chaplains with naked catamites and let us tempt the Catholics with foetal sandwiches. That was quite controversial."
Part of the challenge of The Empty Space is the acts you have to follow. Tom’s performance was preceded by a contemporary dance piece put on by two Ruskin students, which saw the two young women cover each other and the stage in flour, polenta and peaches. "I don’t think they were lesbians," says Tom. "They were just two girls rolling around eating stuff and spitting it out and making… caveman noises. When they left they just crawled out. I was sitting near the entrance and I was worried they were going to throw all this shit on me." Just an occupational hazard.