Human instinct to categorise and label everything and everyone extends to drawing boundaries and borders around bits of land, dividing the world up into distinct nations with names and cultural features. They’re arbitrary really, and Daniel Bye channels obscure, near-mythical performance artist Edward Shorter to challenge them.
With rising levels of global racism and xenophobia, border controls have mirrored these attitudes. The UK’s rejection of visas for Syrian artists coming to the fringe is a notable example. But what can we do the combat these attitudes?
Bye’s conjuration of his alter-ego captures an anarchic radicalism that at least some of us long to practice, but lack the courage to do so. He notes that his family and home are major obstacles to Shorter’s homeless, passport-less existence, but there’s a clear undertone of of desire to live the ideals of the scripts, attributed to Shorter.
Creating Shorter as a dramaturgical filter is a clever distancing device, but the brief scripts that Bye reenacts also serve as sharp criticism of immigration and citizenship policies. Using the audience within these scripts develops a critical dialogue addressing the cruelty and absurdity of interactions around borders, but Bye often truncates these before they can be explored with much depth. The final premise of going undercover as a detention centre guard is particularly prescient, though ends abruptly.
Bye is a warm, charismatic performer that the audience supports even though he asks for personal information and endurance from those who volunteer. His calls for revolution and bearing witness are gentle rather than confrontational, but will this be enough to enrage his audiences to the point that they are motivated to action?
Instructions for Border Crossing runs through 27 August.
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