Friday, 13 January 2012

If Only…! There and Back Again - The Bluecoat

I believe I did say If Only…! would return and here it is, tonight we are promised be taken on a journey to the centre of the stage and back again. So set the controls to the centre of the stage. After been given an alternative ticket, listing a series of instructions we enter the performance space. To be greeted by a confusion of chairs, people quietly take their chairs and nothing happens. While I sit there in the dim light I begin to wonder if it's already begun, did that man standing up take off his coat in a way that seems stylised, is that woman two chairs away politely smiling putting it on? Then it all goes black. A spotlight picks out the person in the sit in front of me, he jumps onto his chair and begins to recount a story about gender and sexuality, he is quickly joined by another at first I attempt to pay attention to what they're saying. I quickly give up I listen to the overlapping rhythms of their speech, just as well as they are joined by three others recounting stories.

What is happening in front of me is a sound collage (similar to The Dreams by Delia Derbyshire and Beryl Bermange that's a good thing) a sound collage which utilises one of the most versatile instruments we have, the human voice. In this piece we can hear the natural rhythms in the voice its inherent musicality and also how we listen. The piece is also a reminder that often quite complex ideas can be express and explored through quite simple means.

As the final words fade into the air on the lights come back on, we are split into groups according to our colour coded tickets. I am in the pink group. The group is ushered to the Bluecoat's hub where a rough and ready structure of tarpaulin and nylon rope awaits us. We dutifully line up, I am informed I am about to enter an imaginary Mariana Trench, before I do so I am handed a pair of headphones and a blindfold. Strangely I am in familiar territory having experiences of having my senses removed for the sake of art. See . This is INARI DIVE a underwater adventure, though if I am honest I get no sense of being of underwater rather what I get is the sensation that I am moving quite gracefully responding elegantly to the sounds in my ears. This illusion is quickly shattered when after leaving the space I witness the stumbling shifting actions of people undergoing the same experience. For me this is the most interesting aspect of the piece the difference between the perception of ourselves and how we appear to others. Maybe this would be the focus in future showings.

The group is on the move again this time to the Vide space. Where are given a lecture about a work of Danny Heyes, which is suspended in the vide space. It's a difficult one to speak about is it a piece about how we treat art breaking down the individual elements of the work and the artist space in an attempt to find a nugget of meaning. Or was it a piece which tests the audience's commitment, are we listening because we want to learn something new about the human condition or are we there because it ticks off some cultural checklist. Or neither… either way the lecture is cut short for time reasons.
The pink group is now in the garden. In the garden is a 'Street Artist' I assume he's a street artist he has spray cans and he's using them. I'll be honest my interest in this kind of thing in barely there I stand there for a bit…then go the toilet in order to avoid the interval rush.

When the interval official happens, there's a moment of embarrassment where I have to recuse my drink from the performance space, sorry. Interval over where back in the performance space, in its more traditional format, a row of flowers lay in front of the tiered seating. There's a man standing there occasionally offering to hug people (not me) this is Alex Scott is ranting. Well he doesn't really seem angry (I've had angrier rants over the ads, ukulele playing cock) as he lists his targets Cameron, the cuts nothing that the majority the audience already agree with. He only seems animated when recounting someone else's speech.

On to the stage comes the clicking heels of (I don't know it's a failing I know I'm sure someone can tell me). Whoever she is aligns herself with the flowers, and 60s pop-folk, and begins to jump on hers heels, then hops backwards stumbling when the lyrics of the song mention falling. It appears to be a naïve expression of the intent of the song, which is compounded by her frantic hammering of the floor which accompanies Dolly Parton's Jolene. Is it naïve, there is something childlike in her actions, childlike in the sense that the actions she undertakes seem the most oblivious but like the sound collage from earlier it is its simplicity which makes it effecting. Especially during the final movement she lifts her dress, exposing herself to the audience as Peter, Paul and Mary sing 'Where have the young girls gone?/ Taken husbands everyone/ When will they ever learn?' making it a moment of naïve knowing.

She is replaced by Mandy Romeo who takes us through a 'remix' or recounting of the night. Like this blog its bias the phrases and actions which must of stuck in Mandy's mind come to the fore, as see re-enacts her experiences they become mixed, the experiences so vivid moments before quickly merge and fall into memory. I wonder about how different or similar our experiences of the night are and maybe it should be a requirement of the events like these for audience member's to re-enact what they've seen, well maybe. Finally the violinist Laura McKinlay takes the stage to play us out.

Like last months If Only…! we have the collection of artists using this a platform to experiment, to test but I begin to wonder where it goes from there. Where and when will we see the expanded versions of what we've seen at If Only…! surely one of benefits of such a platform is the possible creation of other similar events in The Bluecoat and beyond? Perhaps these concerns will be assuaged by the festival that this round of If Only…! events will climax in.

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