Brighton Fringe 2016
As part of the Brighton Fringe Festival, the MA Performance and Visual Practices returns to the Marlborough Theatre for its annual show of surprise and delight.
A three hour promenade tour of The Marlborough Pub and Theatre, in which the audience stumbled across both punters and performance artists, culminating in a final performance in upstair’s theatre was the order of the evening. Depending on your ticket, the audience was either directed upstairs (Spin Up), or downstairs (Spin Down) for the opening performances of the piece. Upstairs we were met with a pink-haired lady who appeared to be DJ-ing using sewing machines (sound isolation), and clips commenting on Capitalism, and the shallowness of society in the current day and age. We then spun around to be met with a short performance “lecture” from two French women hinging on the absurdity of the arts and its vagueness in deconstructing ideas. Once finished, we were guided down into the pub area in which many punters were scattered around the venue, and the audience moved around, to be met with performances by a glittery female Shakespeare, a fish/man, and a glamorous bin man. Our experience was ended with four performances from the artists we had met on our tour in the more traditional theatre setting upstairs.
A rather chaotic and cramped environment was the atmosphere that the audience were met with on arrival, once informed whether they were ‘Spin Up’, or ‘Spin down’, were very wisely encouraged to purchase a drink at the bar. Fifteen minutes later, my audience group were led upstairs to the Theatre, and met with the striking and intriguing image of a stern looking woman named Jodie Violet, dressed in black, with pink hair, standing behind tables set up with six sewing machines. Standing/sitting was an issue, which meant many audience members stood in odd places around the venue, but this all added to the intentionally confusing atmosphere. A performance ensued that was interesting and compelling, captivating the audience’s full attention. Following this, our “lecture” began, which was much needed light relief, as two young French women (Mathilde Segonds and Clarisse Mathevet) demonstrated with humour and irony the vagueness/absurdity that can be the art world, and artists themselves. The audience enjoyed the piece, laughing throughout, creating an atmosphere of feeling refreshed at the tongue in cheek nature of the piece. Also an impressive undertaking for the performers in a different language. Next, we were guided downstairs to be met with a lady who appeared to dressed as a sparkly Shakespeare, and from the programme I understand performed sonnets under the name of Vinyl Catastrophe, entitled ‘The Burning Star Sonnets’. Unfortunately, I was unable to hear or see the piece. The audience was forced to compile in a space that it did not fit in, and punters within the pub seemed unaware that a performance was taking place (so one cannot place blame here), and therefore continued to talk at a level that meant the piece was inaudible. A great shame, as the later performance in the theatre upstairs (by the same artist- Vinyl Catastrophe) proved to be one of the most enthralling, dramatic, and, dare I say it, perfectly conceptualised pieces of the night. After this piece downstairs, a similar atmosphere continued for artist Chris Sav, who was dressed in a fish head. From what one can gather, the idea was that the audience would join in a karaoke-style singalong of boyband songs that had been adapted to fit a rather more fishy theme. ‘Is it too late now to say Sardine?’ was just an example of the Justin Bieber style song that, given an audience who could see/hear what was happening without the obstacle of drunken punters and a pool table, would have found funny and engaging. Once again, a great shame that both artists were prevented from performing to their full potential, as Chris’s piece upstairs later, proved to be another stand out piece of the night. A short comedy piece about becoming successful in one’s career if one decides to be more like a squid was a brilliant, surreal, and well conceptualised piece. Lewis Klein’s TRASH TV performance was at first engaging, due to a confident performer, once again became difficult to engage in, as the audience could not hear, and many could not see a small laptop that the artist had chosen to show some video pieces on. A small cuddly toy covered in rubbish appeared, which seemed engaging, but unfortunately I’m not sure how or why this related to the piece. Upstairs, the artist used a giant wheely bin (yes, a giant wheely bin!) as a prop to dress up and dance in a collection of trash that had been scattered around the stage. An interesting idea, which seemingly needed more development, as the significance of trash seemed unclear to the audience. However, a clearly talented dance performer, and confident character allowed the audience to remain attentive in the most part. Andy Hoggarth was an artist that I was unaware of until after the performance upstairs, as I had not noticed video installations in the pub area until after the performance. Brilliant videos, but unfortunately a difficult environment to truly enjoy these in. Andy’s performance was confident, edgy, and had an element of Talking Heads about it. The Quantum Physics element of the piece went straight over my head, but no matter, I thoroughly enjoyed watching a grown man in a blue shirt dance along with projections of himself in an eighties pop star style, and go on to teach various reluctant audience members to Waltz.
Overall, an emotional roller coaster of a night with clearly talented, innovative and well-informed artists. This is a show I would love to enjoy in a space that allows the performers the one thing that is integral in a performance of this type – a space that would allow for a captive audience. Vinyl Catastrophe, Chris Sav, Andy Hoggarth, Lewis Klein, Mathilde Segonds and Clarisse Mathevet are all individually intriguing artists, who I would happily watch perform again without the added highlights of drunken and emotional conversations from punters, and background music within the pub. A valiant effort from the performers, I applaud them.