Edinburgh Fringe 2014
Wunderbaum bring a refreshing, utterly bonkers hour and half’s… erm… entertainment to Summerhall, which will leave you laughing, angry and a bit grossed out.
Looking For Paul is still messing with my mind. Dutch theatre company Wunderbaum have created something so completely believable that I’m not sure whether it was a satire or whether it actually became what it was trying to ridicule.
Inez van Dam lives in Rotterdam. Opposite her home and bookshop has been placed a new piece of public funded, contemporary art, Kabouter Buttplug. American artist, Paul McCarthy, has created the ‘Buttplug Gnome’ without apparently knowing anything about Dutch culture. Inez thinks it’s not only a blight on her street, but also a patronising insult to the people of Rotterdam.
Inez tells us about her Buttplug focused anger, then tells us of the day Wunderbaum got in touch with her to create some sort of revenge performance, having recently received money for a project from the Californian arts funding body.
Wunderbaum then introduce themselves and say that they didn’t actually manage to get anything together by the deadline set by their financiers. So they will just read their email correspondences in the period leading up to the performance date.
What follows is a dryly funny and seemingly authentic verbatim email exchange between the three Wunderbaum actors, constantly mutinying, Inez, plunged into the ruthless art world against her wishes, and an American actor, self-assured but, vitally, the contact for Paul McCarthy.
We are shown a film which suggests the group spent a lot of their precious rehearsal period pasting pictures of Inez van Dam across the Hollywood suburbs where McCarthy lives in an effort to freak him out.
The emails become more desperate and the actors hit rock bottom as the deadline arrives. So what will they have to show for their rehearsal period?
Well, luckily for us, Wunderbaum decide to give us a performance of their last-minute attempt at a hybrid McCarthy-Virginia Woolf-LA-Kabouter Buttplug-Fame-Lady Gaga-Consumerism theatre piece. And it is incredible.
I won’t give it away, but it’s the most limit-pushing, stomach-churning, belly-laughing twenty-five minutes of theatre I’ve seen this fringe. It’s disgusting and it’s absolutely insane.
The performers are all totally committed and seem to have no boundaries when it comes to the ridiculous denouement. Their dry and detailed naturalistic performances in the first two thirds of the play make the complete insanity of the finale a joy to behold.
Some people will find this show very, very annoying, I am sure of it. I keep thinking about it and wondering if it was all one big in-joke. I can’t help but think it was all very lazy. I keep arguing with myself as to whether or not it was art. Which is exactly the point. All these things are things people think about contemporary arts. It’s a very knowing send up, which walks the very fine line between condemnation and glorification.
If you’re unsure, just go for the finale’s salad cream, faeces and gherkins.