So life’s pretty full-on innit.
My bedroom’s been destroyed and re-plastered, I dragged my loved ones 350 miles for one shitty glass of warm prosecco at my MA graduation, we’ve been frantically hunting for new flatmates with the requisite love of schadenfreude, work is suddenly very real and scary and HEIGHTENED, I had to go to York for a week to deliver a festival, my landlord says I can’t paint my room fucking WHITE because - get this - “it’s TOO STARK” (sorry, what?), my new glasses had to go back because they WOULDN’T EVEN STAY ON MY FACE, and my auntie’s cat died pretty much immediately after it clapped eyes on me at the weekend.
I’ve basically wanted to be in bed for a month now. Anything that has delayed bed, theatre/art included, has been a gross misuse of my time and energy and will not be tolerated. But it appears that my obsessive need to record my thoughts on this shit is now a borderline mental health issue, so here is an arbitrary list of artistic encounters coupled with some entirely superficial observations.
Happy Days at the Young Vic
A woman buried in sand talks about the stuff in her handbag. I liked that you could take a 2 minute slice of the action at any point and get the same glaring, claustrophobic, unforgiving sense of exposure and imprisonment, but I was so knackered that, actually, 2 minutes of it would’ve been quite enough thank you very much. Also, fucking WEIRD curtain call. Fair enough she’s trapped in sand, and probably wearing yesterday’s joggers, newsreader-style, but lack of even a smile or nod or mouthed ‘thank you darlings’ meant that the whole power of the THIS IS THE END NOW moment was lost in awkward audience shuffling. It needed to be a clear actionactionactionactionEND thing. (I’m pretty sure I got that term from Zizek or whatever.)
Martin Creed at the Hayward
Loved this for exactly the same reason that I hate that fucking awful chicken on the fourth plinth. Almost every work is like Harry Enfield art: created by a HILARIOUS Fast Show character called ‘Gallery Wanker’ or something. A huge wall of paintings made with brocolli, paper completely coloured in with one felt tip pen, a film of a woman taking a (constipated if you ask me) dump, a massive outdoor screen showing a looping flaccid-erect-flaccid-erect-flaccid-erect cock. Any one of these works, on its own, would be a chicken-level embarrassment. A whole exhibition of them is like a glorious fuck you to every ‘Gallery Wanker’ in there. He’s laughing at you, not with you.
Ballad of the Burning Star by Theatre Ad Infinitum
I saw this just last night, and I needed it. I needed to think about something bigger than my own to-do list, and have a good old cry about murdered children and religious persecution. Ballad of the Burning Star is cabaret, drag, mime, history lesson, family saga. Jews and Arabs and faith and ego and glitter. Unlike Happy Days, you can’t half-watch. It wasn’t perfect (turns out I’m now one of those old bastards who complains about performers with a lack of clear diction), but it sucked me out of my own bubble and kicked me in the face before I left. Fucking excellent.
Secret Theatre - Show 4 at Lyric Hammersmith
The first of the Secret Theatre shows that’s been in the Studio space, and it feels like a more appropriate home. The style of these performances requires an intimacy that the main auditorium can’t sustain. This one is based on an old text, which makes it seem a bit wordy and over-long, but Secret Theatre is starting to get those shocking, hold-you-breath visual moments really really right. (That’s all I’ll say about Show 4 because I’m not a dick.)
United Visual Artists at the Barbican
"The new Rain Room" apparently. It’s actually better than Rain Room, because you’re not just walking down the Curve gallery to get to this fucking tourist attraction at the end, you’re experiencing a space that’s been designed to alter your mood, your pace. And it’s powerful. Couples sway gently as their eyes follow the lights, children shut their stupid faces for a minute, everybody slows down. Those slow-shutter images the Barbican are using don’t do it justice. It’s mesmerising, but very gentle. I’ll go back when I get some more breathing space in the coming weeks. It might actually be the thing that helps me get hold of some breathing space to begin with.