Brighton Year-Round 2020
Commissioned by Marlborough Productions as a partnership project for New Queers on the Block, a touring and artist development scheme.
If performance maker Malik Nashad Sharpe, aka Marikiscrycrycry, set out to wrong foot, excite, baffle, charm and irritate the audience in course of their new show, He’s Dead is a resounding success. As a stage piece it breaks all the rules. It builds a story line then squashes it; sets up a duet then adds an off kilter dancer more as architecture than character. Jon Cleveland’s atmospheric lighting design beams down and across in diamond formation, projections over dry ice create a Pepper’s Ghost illusion – are these voices of the living or the dead? Music comes fiercely from rap’s underbelly cursing and crude before melting into a landscape of wistful electronica.
Sounds messy? It is; mostly in a good way. Performed with impressive physicality and huge conviction, Marikiscrycrycry is an imposing presence and moves in ways that highlight their muscularity. There’s a glimpse of vulnerability in the face; see the whites of those eyes as the body sinks to the floor. They are matched in dance skill by Blue Makwana all punchy in tartan bondage, shaking her everything, a wise kid on the corner. Much of the piece is a duet, owning the large stage with choreography that reflects the jolt and thrust of rap and hip-hop.
When they are joined by Eve Stainton, swamped by her jumper, slim limbs flashing geometric shapes, the piece begins to open out. A large banner is unfurled, flags are waved briefly then discarded; theatricality without impact.
Gareth Chambers, in 1980’s club clone get up, uses Marikiscrycrycry as a punchbag in a bout of homoerotic wrestling. Is Biggy Smalls beating up Tupac? Tension builds. And just as quickly drops.
A voice emerges from a lamp-lit hood, “I am suicidal” it sings, operatically. Marikiscrycrycry and Blue Makwana swish water over their heads; a ritual that goes on longer than it should. How these set pieces affect you is wholly subjective. I had to suppress a laugh; the imagery was too overt, narcissistic and manipulative. The third year drama student next me found them very moving and contemplative. Good work should always throw up questions and offer interpretations. We bring to it as well as take away. This was never going to be an easy piece. Marikiscrycrycry describes their practice thus:
“an expansive choreographic proposition that utilises dance and live action as a modality that excavates various ontologies at/around Blackness and [G/END/ER]Queerness. Their performances lean into the affective and physical politics of anxiety, allostatic load, aesthetics, and alienation, creating textured material that undermines hegemonic meaning production.”
I’ll just leave that there.
And what of Tupac? I love that the question is not ‘who killed Tupac?’ but ‘was he depressed?’ The work gave us angst, alienation and rivalry which, from my limited knowledge (the Slow Burn podcast), ran through Tupac’s life. It gave it to us with its own interior logic, with curious switches of rhythm and tone. It was annoying and compelling, self-important and complicated. I think Tupac would have approved.