Tuesday, 26 August 2014


Since I try to avoid having opinions that aren't related to the arts (I have them, okay, but they are usually ill-informed), I have been pretty quiet about the Referendum. I have been trying to be as neutral as possible, politically, reserving my vainglorious positions for star rating theatre.

The big problem has been the lack of art being made in defence of the NO vote. This means that any reviewing that I have done - or previewing - has been all about the YES campaign's contributions. Since some of these efforts have been weak, I end up looking as if I do have an opinion about the Referendum.

Of course, I do have a preference, and I told one person what it was. I hope nobody cares, but if they do, they can ask this person after the results are in.

However, I like writing about aesthetics, and get paid for it now and again. And given my (about to be diagnosed, I hope) dyscalculia, it is no good asking me to think about the important economic questions. I can't understand numbers.

Anyway, the NO campaign have finally put out something that is close to art. It's that broadcast with the lady making up her mind.

The scenography is intriguing: are they making a post-feminist statement by placing a woman in a kitchen? Given the powerful depictions of women through the Fringe, from Naked in Alaska through to Sirens, the broadcast undeniably taps into a healthy performance discourse about the status of women. Boldly placing a woman in an environment associated with domestic tasks is either a sly wink to the non-heteronormative discourse of Sister, or an attempt to present 'real women', as Lyn Gardner says of Sirens.

The monologue form, again, is very fashionable. Beowulf the Blockbuster, which won the Fringe with a series of four and five star reviews, had a similar format, placing a single voice in a domestic context. Like Beowulf, the performer takes on several roles, returning to a single, questioning identity that drives the narrative.

Despite these contemporary elements, there is an emphasis on the script as the foundation. Of course, the direction has added their own spin to the text - that pause towards the end has all the sinister association of a Harold Pinter moment - but the words carry both the message and the meaning. In fact, it is possible to treat the broadcast as a soundscape. Although the scenography carries a coherent subtext, it is the voice, and the words, that count.

The central performance, by the lady making up her mind, is key. It's not entirely clear whether she is deliberately being a bit unconvincing or trying to capture a style of acting that lost ground with the growth of the devising process. Either way, it emphasises the primary theme of the action: uncertainty and doubt.

Eschewing the spectacle, aiming for a simple naturalism, the structure recalls the absurdists - Beckett in particular - casting the individual adrift in a world filled with big ideas that are beyond the grasp of the protagonist. It exposes the sexist assumptions of the absurdist authors by replacing the male at the centre (or the 'de-centre'), whilst reclaiming a version of 'photorealism' in performance - the actor as a creator of mimesis (or, as a more net savvy generation might say, meme-sis).

None of this reflects on my political opinions: Plato would kill me for paying attention to the shadows on the wall of the cave.

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