Friday, 26 April 2013

Total Football

It's around the half-way mark for Behaviour - as soon as The Arches finishes up, it's turn for The Tron to take up the baton with Mayfesto - and the emphasis on "emerging artists" has provoked me to reconsider how I approach reviewing each show. Since it's possible to buy a season ticket for Behaviour (no point in saying that they are well priced, since I don't actually work for The Arches.. yet), I wonder whether it's worth waiting until the final artist has performed before having a final opinion. I mean, the other times that people buy season tickets are for sport, and it's dangerous to access the success of a football team before the last ball has been kicked.

Watford FC, for comparison, have been looking tasty all season, but a sudden slump in form has meant that they are unlikely to qualify for automatic promotion this season. So while Behaviour has had some strong entries, including a reading of stand-up comedy that made me sentimental for 1970s' political drama and a monologue from one of the USA's most honest and bold performers, it's not over until Torycore rocks the 2013 Budget with some heavy riffs in the Glad Cafe

Unlike Watford, Behaviour has not been marked by a shift towards champagne skills after years of malign press about their old fashioned tactic: in many ways, the "emerging artists" have a closer link to the Hornets' years under Graham Taylor. There is a kick'n'rush freneticism to Amanda Monfrooe's Poke (making it an uncomfortable experience, challenging and unashamedly brutal), and Rantin recalls the deceptively jolly ceilidh style pieces that were all the rage in the time of 7:84. 

Rantin is a departure from Hurley's previous play, Beats: it is more episodic, the collaboration with musicians and other actor/devisors more explicit. There's a moment of full-bloodied politics, more violent than anything he describes in Beats (which had a police charge) or Hitch (culminating in a massive protest). A teenage girl sits on a hill, ponders the legacy of the luddites and heads into town, swinging a golf-club.

Monfrooe, meanwhile, has the entire planet engulfed by apocalyptic fog, when the battle between two women over the last child on earth goes beyond the wordy arguments beloved of Greek tragedy. The rage behind these moments - which may or may not reflect the authors' own feelings on supermarket automatic tills and environmental crisis respectively - harks back to the relentless energy of Watford's 1980s 4-2-4 formation than the sophisticated midfield mastery of Gianfranco's XI. 

Whether these moments presage a building theme within Behaviour, in which the political climate has provoked a more ferocious theatre, or are simply isolated fragments within a more gentle programme, they suggest that some theatre is following on from its foundations in Athenian tragedy. Apart from making a more traditional criticism difficult - if Rantin does contain a desire for an anti-technocratic revolution, does commenting on the quality of Hurley's performance as an aging, cynical alcohol matter?  - these hints are hopeful for anyone who clings to a belief that art might be more than just a matter of expressing the economic infrastructure.

See E V E R Y T H I N G with a BEHAVIOUR Festival Pass (£45/£35)

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