Saturday, 18 August 2012

Support the Power of Woo Man

If I am honest, I only intended to leave the office for five minutes at around six. It's the back of midnight, and I have just returned. In the intervening period, I have encountered contemporary Indian dance (lyrical and enchanting, powerful and delicate), laughed along with an illustrated performance lecture that rages against ageism and ended up on stage, wearing a wig, pretending to be the Olympic Flame. People often ask me why I write so much. It's because things like this happen if I go outside.

I was lucky to get a ticket for Wendy Houston: she has worked with Time Etchells (Forced Entertainment) and Nigel Charnock (DV8), two artists who inspired men to take up the word in response to theatre. Her 50 Acts is a collection of "small dances and big ideas", raced through in under an hour and embracing eloquent poetry and cheeky choreography, sketched around a counter-blast against ageism but taking in the duplicity of politicians, the ferocity of the modern world, the troubles with radical performance and the difficulty of ending something, whether that be life or a show. And she throws in a few manifestos along the way.

Houston's dynamism - for a show about being old, there are plenty of high kicks, urgent pacing about and a rocking soundtrack - disguises the thoughtful core. It may seem scatter-shot, pot shots at health and safety bumping against moving interludes that evoke nursing homes and the indignity of slow death, but her vision is clear and her argument coherent. In a world obsessed with categorisation and speed of communication, the attack against the elderly's worth is not just youthful ignorance. It becomes, rather, the logical end point of the quest for speed and its cult of youth.

After a moment of poignancy at Houston's finale, I nipped off to see Jonny Woo. His solo show tells his life story - at least so far, as Woo is only in his fortieth year and frankly, looks great on it. His adventures in the worlds of Woolworths and New York clubbing are awarded equal attention, building his ambitions until he can finally fulfil his childhood ambition: to become Wonder Woman.

Woo alternates between songs and spoken word, all dressed in outrageous costumes - his poet, Spam Eyres, is a monstrous cross between homely old school variety and a sexual predator, and the things he does with boxing gloves do need to be witness. It's not until the final number, a fantasy on the Transvestite Olympics, that the audience participation gets going. And so my evening ended, shimmying and in a white wig.

Assembly, 1- 26 August

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