Edinburgh Fringe 2011
A marvellous, unconventional, chaotic, post-modern, table-turning piece of theatre from Nigel Barrett and Louise Mari, founders of the legendary Shunt Lounge where they curated and created radical performance pieces. This show was formed, piece by piece, in the Shunt environment and is now at C Venues, well knitted and whole.
12.00 midnight at C Venues is an interesting slot. As I queue for the show I am joined by many that have been merrying the night away. Noticing my reviewer’s badges someone asks me in a tipsy voice for the ‘low down’ on the show. I explain that I really have no idea what I am about to see, and yet the promotional material available at the Fringe, the images and quoted audience reactions on the flyer, have led me to come, as I am assuming it had also my tipsy fellow theatregoer. I realised that unconsciously I had been expecting to see something that I already knew, that I would gain pleasure from it because of my own already predicted responses; I’ll laugh at this or that, think such and such is profound, etc. In short I had come to masturbate. What is more, my fellow masturbator who asked me for the low down, had come with completely different pleasure seeking aims. As he and his entourage left uncomfortably within 15 minutes of the show starting then I assume they were vastly different to mine.
The show uses multiple screens, projecting sometimes fast moving, decaying images, or text is displayed as our actor works. His skills are shown off as he moves in a perfunctory way through a short sequence portraying expected actorly modes. He splits into three people, sets light to his trousers, pulls off a head to toe costume in near pitch darkness with flickering welding light and haunting, frightening industrial sounds. He stands naked on stage and then asks us in projected text “why would anyone do that?“, inviting us to ask ourselves “why would we want to see someone do that?” We feel sometimes as though he is ultra normal and at others as though he is untouchable, inaccessible, from a world which is impossible for us to inhabit. The piece is heavily loaded with well constructed images that burn into you as though one is being branded with a hot iron, and yet in a faux interval he has a lunch break, sits in the aisle and hands out Jaffa cakes and savoury eggs. Sometimes he is a fascist, demanding of the audience, singing ‘You are so beautiful’ yet encouraging an audience sing-along by shouting “come on you fuckers!”, turning the tables and demanding that he be entertained by his own abilities as seen through the audiences eyes.
This show is brilliantly disconcerting. A post modern deconstruction of theatregoing, of the actor as being heavy and weighted as the carrier of meaning, the audience the passive receptor of this meaning being imparted. Essentially it is a piece of theatre about what is involved when an audience, or a single subject watches, becomes involved in, a piece of theatre. More than this it implicates the theatregoing subject in the wider theatre of his or her life, as passive receptor of his or her own meaning making.
This is an outstanding show, very thought provoking and it might just change your whole view of everything!