Monday, 4 August 2014

Bedtime Stories

The master of theatrical slight of hand has fun at another's expense.
Poor Brian Hartley. At one o'clock he is dragged through the Grassmarket by Ian Smith, who is dressed as a bull. Then he is locked into a shower cubicle by the same tyrannical Live Artists, wrapped in a shower curtain and forced to dance to Smith's slightest facial gesture. Smith might be celebrating his fiftieth year, but it is Hartley who is the foil. Smith's genius is in matching the funny and the serious. In Bedtime Stories, he has arranged for the audience to read out his memories. Smith lies in bed and responds. From his tics and shrugs, Hartley evolves appropriate movement. It is an intimate experience. I whispered Smith's story into his ear, unable to see his reaction but watching Hartley thrash about. Was I causing despair? Was Hartley trying to escape? Was Smith laughing at me, making me his tool, getting the audience to do the work? Usually when these questions come up, the artist has an intense frown. Smith smirks. This is all part of what made him such a genial host for the National Review of Live Art. He looks trustworthy. He can draw the poor punter in - as he has beguiled Brian - and hurl up all those emotions about time passing, change, the innocence of childhood, ironic and contemplative - and still make it feel like fun. Leaving the shower cubicle as if it is a church, the audience laughs and swaps memories. A success for Smith, but Hartley is plotting his turn as director..

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