Day Two at Buzzcut Festival

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Part of the reason I wanted to come to Buzzcut is that I find it hard to write about live art. I don’t dislike it, far from it – I have a broad but uninformed appreciation of it. But my theatrical home is built from Shakespeare, text-based narratives and the great American playwrights. I’m no Megan Vaughan or Rosie Curtis – I see performance art every now and again, but not nearly enough as I should. So the goal is to see a lot of live art, and write about. The range in styles and approaches is vast and the festival draws live artists from around the country, so it’s a great place to experience this form of performance.

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Day One at Buzzcut Festival

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Actually, it’s the second day of the live art festival at the Pearce Institute in Glasgow but due to work, I couldn’t make the opening day. So in order to save travel time, I lost by Megabus Gold virginity and took the overnight sleeper coach. Unceremoniously dumped in Buchanan bus station at 6:30 am after an intermittent night’s sleep, I chugged a coffee (after being laughed at for attempting to order a flat white) in the station caf before heading to my digs, then navigating an unfamiliar city’s public transport across town to the Pearce Institute.

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Celebration, Florida, The Albany

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by guest critic Tom Brocklehurst

Shows incorporating technology have become more and more common recently. This experimental show, Celebration, Florida, features two unrehearsed performers wearing headphones. Greg Wohead, the creator of the show gives them instructions, dictates to them what to say and where to stand, and what accent to speak in. Most of the time they are speaking as him – they have to imitate his American accent (badly) and ask us to picture them as him, standing in his hotel room in his pants, thinking up ideas for this show.

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Narcissistic Nativity, Fucking Little Elf Bitch, Rosemary Branch

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After 20 years running the Rosemary Branch, Cecilia Darker and Cleo Sylvestre moved on to pastures new in June this year. Unattended Items, a company with a focus on interactive theatre and design-led work, took over and have been busy programming work that has similar practices to their own.

Their Christmas bill of adults-only shows is no different. Urban Foxes Collective’s Narcissistic Nativity is a feminist, live art piece fighting against the patriarchy; Mammalian’s Fucking Little Elf Bitch is a one-woman show on the perils of working in a grotto. Both break down the fourth wall and use non-linear structures, and both need some tweaking for the sake of clarity, but this pair effectively balance current issues and laughs.

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The People Show 124: Fallout, Toynbee Studios

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Making devised work for the past 50 years, People Show are nothing less than prolific. Their multidisciplinary works are numbered as part of the title; the company’s works now number 132. To celebrate their anniversary, the company’s taken over Toynbee Studios for three days, filling the venue with performances, films and an exhibition celebrating their half a century of work.

People Show 124: Fallout, first performed in 2013, is resurrected here. The piece deconstructs speeches by public figures and adds light, sound and film; the overall effect is one of provocative absurdity – isolated soundbites lose all meaning, even in a world that’s said to be falling apart. This short piece drives its point home quickly and efficiently and stimulates the senses, but with its message emphasising meaninglessness, it soon becomes repetitive.

Everything in the room is white, even the padded floor is powdered with talc to add an additional layer of frost. Pillows attached to the walls evoke a soothing dreamscape. But soon, pulsing colours disturb the peace as the cast of four fiercely deliver snippets of text. The lights are often so bright they are uncomfortable, even though the colours are childlike and fun. The juxtaposition is clever and sharp, and the switch from austere to saturated is an effective one.

The actors’ tone ranges from gentle to antagonistic, with a decidedly post-apocalyptic bent to the text. Projections of sweeping desert landscapes back up the promises of nuclear fallout, though the dreamy atmosphere from the beginning still lingers – what is real, and what is the product of our subconscious? The disconnect from reality diminishes any potential meaning, making the outcome decidedly absurd, even though the intention seems to want to carry more weight.

This colourful world enhanced with gorgeous projections, bright lights and music is integrated  with the text, though there is a lack of development in the core idea of the piece. If real life is has no purpose and we’re better off in a dream because the world is hellbent on destroying us, that’s fine – but a performance telling us that is not an easy thing to execute and in this case, not done fully effectively.

People Show 124: Fallout is now closed.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.

Two Man Show, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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RashDash are angry. Like, fucking furious level of angry. They’re fed up of patriarchal language and gender stereotypes that limit both men and women from expressing themselves honestly. So they made a show about it. Two Man Show has three women in it, music and dance, nudity and a lot of explosive energy. It’s part science lecture, part role play and part celebration of who we are without others’ judgment and categorisation based on gender expression. It’s a fantastic, “fuck yeah” explosion of pretty skirts, masculinity, tits, cockfighting and nonconformity. It’s also pretty bloody brilliant.

Out of an opening tirade on equality in the dawn of human history, Abbi Greenland and Helen Goalen take on the roles of two brothers, Dan and John. They don’t get on, arguing almost constantly about caring responsibilities for their terminally ill father. Their fighting builds in between movement and dance sequences of surprising intimacy and tenderness.

The culmination to Dan and John’s tension is a fantastic eruption of John’s frustrated masculinity feeling limited by “man things”. His words twists through Abbi’s, the man-woman who is happy in her own skin but doesn’t really suit any of that girly shit. Helen’s feminine contrast powerfully reinforces the importance of choice and freedom and that a woman doesn’t need to be butch to be a feminist and a man can express his feelings and do “feminine things” without his heterosexual maleness being threatened.

Greenland and Goalen’s performances are endowed with conviction and energy, and both are skilled physical performers who can convincingly play men, even with their breasts unveiled. They are accompanied by a musician, who backs them up with unfettered tunes of frustration and celebration.

This is a truly feminist show. Rather than blaming men, Two Man Show looks at the conventions of language that aids female suppression and acknowledges that men are not served by this system, either. Fabulously sequinned and ferociously opinionated, this is not one to miss.

Two Man Show runs through 27th August.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.

Lucy McCormick: Triple Threat, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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A cultural relic of its time, the bible is hardly pro-women. Lucy McCormick, here incarnated as one of those vapid pop stars who evangelically (and often inappropriately) rallies for the cause they’re currently backing, wants to turn the spotlight on the new testament’s women. She focuses on their underwritten stories, their emotional involvement in Jesus’ life, and all the fingering and angel snogging that was left out of the text we know so well in Western culture.

Trashy, tasteless, obscene, and absolutely excellent, McCormick’s newest show pushes theatre to to limits of acceptability and beyond – any further and it would be pornographic (arguably it already is), though Lucy McCormick: Triple Threat is still not one for those easily offended. Accompanied by two muscly dancers in Calvins, her three-act play that she dutifully explains scene by scene is the story of Jesus Christ. She plays Mary Magdalene, Jesus’ mother Mary, and Jesus himself, with her backing dancers in the supporting roles. It’s also very funny, though laughter swells from amusement as much as it does from discomfort.

This gig-theatre piece is interspersed with appropriate pop songs at key moments of the story, accompanied by excellent dancing and raw emotional outbursts. Her personal life bleeds into the act as she slowly falls apart in the wake of the pressures of celebrity life. Take all of those public celeb breakdowns and multiply them by hundreds with a lot more nudity and mess, and you get something resembling the whirlwind of in-yer-face chaos that is Lucy’s stage persona in this piece.

Her commitment to her cause is unquestionable, but the fact that her character finds the actions that unfold acceptable is disturbing, yet all too familiar. That we can watch someone fall to bits with no dignity and laugh at their plight, righteously judging them, is a powerful comment on the levels of voyeurism and exhibitionism that are now bombard us through all of media’s incarnations.

Lucy McCormick: Triple Threat, for all its deliberate mess and audience discomfort, is a fantastically considered social commentary executed with precision and high levels of consideration and skill. It’s the epitome of fringe shows, and a great one at that.

Lucy McCormick: Triple Threat runs through 28th August.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.