Thursday, 12 June 2014

April 19th

It is a very human thing to seek stories.  Which is why it can be very unnerving watching shows which don’t provide them pre-packaged.  On the other hand, humans are very adept at making narratives for themselves given fragments, echoes and suggestions.  

It quickly became apparent that Number 1, The Plaza was an evening with format (albeit a grotesque parody of one); the performers referring to each other by their real names, playing off each other in a double act, taking on personae which become increasingly more extreme. Jen is dark and sullen, and as brutally honest as the vivacious blonde Lucy is attention-seeking. Like matter and anti-matter, the two clash creating a “metaphorical space” in which to play with the audience.

Lying, covering up and bullshitting their way through the show, they half-arsedly program their own lighting states, mess up duets and fool themselves that they have something to show. As audience we are left trying to make sense of these fragments of performance, unsure of where they were heading, and to what end, but compelled to watch two lost clowns trapped in their tiny flat.

In show with a relationship at its core, Jen and Lucy self-consciously demonstrate the mechanisms at work in theirs, from the status games they play, to their strange and intimate bonding rituals. Songs form emotional touchstones, rather than furthering any plot, much the same way as they do in musical theatre, demonstrating that, despite the appearance of chaos, they know exactly how to use the theatrical tools at their disposal.

To make your audience feel and think certain ways, arguably performers need to be at liberty to use every tool available, including nudity. And when Lucy exposed herself to the audience physically, I was left thinking, how long will she stay unclothed? I was waiting for the moment she would re-dress, put everything back in order and the show could continue without the feeling of awkwardness the nudity presented.  But of course, life isn’t like that and so she remains exposed, like the stage mechanics, throughout her curtain call. 

Only Wolves and Lions review

Cambridge Junction, 24th May 2014 

Someone once suggested to me that the performance begins as soon as you start thinking about it. In which case, this performance began at about 5:10 pm in the Coop as I stood in the dried goods aisle panicking about whether to bring chickpeas or chocolate.

It's not often that you pack seven tins of chickpeas to go to the theatre, but here I was in the Junction foyer, along with 12 other participants all clutching their secret ingredients, waiting for someone to take us to a secret venue for Only Wolves and Lionsan interactive event facilitated by Unfinished Business. SomehowIt all felt very MI6. 

The title comes from the Ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus who said that 'dining alone is leading the life of a lion or wolf’. The premise of the show is to gather together a group of strangers to make a meal and enjoy the communal experience, something which is so often missing from our busy lives.  Especially, I imagine, if you actually are an MI6 agent. 

Once we arrived, the curator/facilitator Leo shook our hands warmly and welcomed us inside a light and spacious gallery space with four workstations each with portable stoves. We sat down at the huge table in the centre with Leo at one end and his equally welcoming co-facilitator Paulina at the other. 

Together, we had to decide what to cook.  I like to think that negotiation is my strong point, but no-one was convinced by the chocolate avocado mousse.  Perhaps I was a little too emphatic that chocolate does go with avocados, and perhaps it was a mistake to point out no, I hadn't in fact ever tried them... but if you don't believe me, take a look here.  

As the dishes started appearing, I felt the fuzzy warmth of achievement - they looked amazing. And all of us together had been responsible for their creation.  Chickpea stew, bruschetta with asparagus and manchego cheese, sweet potato and chorizo mash, guacamole, raw vegetable salad as well as chocolate topped avocado. 

Once the hustle and bustle of eating was over and  the fullness of people's stomachs had quietened them, Patricia began to tell the story about her childhood and its connection to food - her family were farmers and because there wasn't much in the way of conventional means of affectioneating together became the way they bonded.  I enjoyed this story, not just because of the way she told it, because I appreciated the sentiment - food and enjoying a meal together, gives us a way of communing with others when it is otherwise difficult.  

As the discussion wended its way round, Leo returned once again to Epicurus, and the idea that perhaps in today's society we are too caught up in what we want, with a wealth of possibility available to us and everything being throw our way, how can we

learn to appreciate what we have?  Or as Epicurus put it so well: 'If thou wilt make a man happy, add not unto his riches but take away from his desires.'