Sunday, 3 June 2018

The Last Weekend of Take Me Somewhere

There comes a time in every critic's life...

Too pompous, start again...

In the past week, I have found myself in a difficult critical position twice. It's a feeling that I am not the ideal person to review the show that I am in the process of watching. Earlier in the Take Me Somewhere programme this had happened at Apollon Musagete. I am usually smart enough to realise this before I book myself into the show, but half-way through Apollon I decided that, despite my experience and championing of feminist performance art that involves purposeful nudity, it would be better to have a woman reviewing it this time. Luckily, Lorna Irvine was in the audience and I handed the work to her. I trust her (she is the most important critic in Scotland) and she turned in the intelligent and thoughtful critique to be found on The List.

Get to the point, Vile. Maybe elaborate on what makes Lorna so important? Nah, tell us all about how you were in 'a difficult critical position'. Give us a laugh, for once.

At Friday's Tramway showing of Last Yearz Interesting Negro's of i ride in colour and soft focus... I had that feeling: that I was not the critic for the job. Sure, considerations of gender and race came into it, but the real kick was that this was dance, and I am now mostly a theatre critic. I can have a good crack at more mainstream stuff (I grew up with ballet, know my major contemporary choreographies), but solo dances? I am a bit out of the loop.

This happened again on Saturday, at Mykki Blanco's gig at SWG3. Similar problem: I am queer enough to engage with Blanco's drag tactics, and I do know a bit about hip-hop (although my reference points are all a bit 1990s, as will be revealed). But this was a gig, and if I start putting gigs and dance in my theatre section at The List, I'll get a deserved spanking off my fellow editors. 

This isn't a question of my aesthetic response to either show. I was well into Blanco (as will be seen). And it is not about whether a white geezer can review work from people of colour. I am willing to defend my position on that, although I am aware other opinions are available. There's a whole bunch of questions here...

But we are not doing those now. I think they deserve a bit more space and you want to get on with it, Vile.

Both shows are beyond my remit for The List. Usually, I'd just accept it, moan about not being able to get the money, then chips and home. But, as far as I know, I was the only critic at the shows. 

Both shows had been programmed at Take Me Somewhere for a reason. They represented the curation's belief in the works as part of a greater whole. Sure, I missed a few other shows, have partially reviewed festivals in the past (budget and time and inclination). But given my belief in the greater representation of people in colour in theatre (and TMS is a 'performance festival), I felt like I had a duty to bear witness to their existence, regardless of my feeling about the shows' respective aesthetics.

Okay, Lorna Irvine was at Blanco and I bet she has done a great review over on Tempo House. There might have been music critics in (I don't know them by name or face). But, actually, I wouldn't mind chatting about that gig, not least to compare Blanco to Tricky (whom I love to distraction) and explore the relationship of theatricality to hip-hop. I might get over to Tempo House myself and do a mash-up comic with Irvine.

But here's the thing: if I exclude these shows, especially i ride in colour, I am ignoring the two works programmed by TMS which were made by people of colour. That makes it look as if TMS is a mostly white affair, which does not represent the intentions of the festival. I believe that theatre has a serious problem with representation of people of colour. I am not getting into that now, either. 


So, briefly, since I am not the person best positioned to review it, i ride is a deeply personal reflection on identity, that sometimes falls into an opaque movement vocabulary and wanders between dance, spoken narrative and playful audience interaction (I got to sit on stage and wear an animal mask), with a sparkling musical soundtrack and a variously bleak and reflective commentary on contemporary issues of self-fulfillment, the role and function of the artist, the difficulties of communication and the joy of dancing. It has a loose dramaturgical structure, moments of pleasure, an intriguingly shadowy lighting score and, I'll mention it again, a great soundtrack. At times, it slips into an ideolect that makes it hard to understand, but places political pressures within a personal context. Like much contemporary dance, it demands close attention.

Look, I am not perfect. This is a struggle with myself, an indulgent meditation on how criticism works. I want to talk about inclusivity. I want to just let people know that this happened. I am in process. Whatever that is going to mean.

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