There is an extensive repertoire of blog-style meanderings urging to surface here. Tales of early morning dashings from cancelled flights, to over-draft inducing last-minute train tickets, to cancelled trains and onto 12-hour journeys (eased by a Tom Cruise DVD trilogy and some Marks & Spencer food hall luxury) to reach the chilly North with it’s thankful lack of ‘adverse weather conditions’, about expectations and preconceptions before the 5-day onslaught of National Review of Live Art, about the sea of familiar faces, gossipy tit-bits and so on. As a virgin blogger maybe I should go straight to the ‘good stuff’ and leave the self-indulgent rambling of ‘I’s’ and ‘Me’s’ for a more melancholy day?
‘Good stuff’? I only caught two performances from the second day of this intensely packed, international festival of the “most radical type of art today.” Silvia Ziranek, an exquisitely graceful, veteran (if that’s not too rude) artist and David Izod, a stocky artist-cum-English teacher from Herefordshire, or somewhere equally wayward and suitably suburban romantic. In questioning whether there is some gesture towards curatorial programming that would disuade taking every work of the festival in isolation, I’m writing them together.
When two works are so close in form it becomes more difficult to see the lines of enquiry one might make. Both solo performances by performers in total command of themselves, their stage and their audience. Both carefully scripted, rehearsed works with powerful panache in their delivery, that assured you that you were in good hands, weren’t going to be embarrassed, and didn’t have to try very hard.
Izod’s expulsive first-person monologue ‘The Bill Dixon Memorial Tour’ comprised of an academically crafted script, telling a narrative personal and exhaustively painful in the description of emotion. Starkly set in a blacked theatre Izod was simply lit, simply wearing white T-shirt, jeans, brown leather shoes, behind a desk equipped with water and printed script (used occasionally but unobtrusively to prompt). The suspension of disbelief in regard to his work was a curious question. All evidence pointed to the fact that this was his real life story, dramatised into the epic proportions of a story-teller, but nonetheless real. To make beautifully, funnily, candidly written stories of your life and deliver simply is confusingly frank. I just don’t know where to contextualise this in a history of theatre.
In Ziranek’s ‘MORE OR LESS ORder’ similarly personal ideas were camouflaged through indulgent layers of costume and kitscherati fluoro papers & Post-Its, tiaras, glittery silver platform shoes, Twix’s, pinks, purples, and all things to be found in a small girl’s version of a Pound-Land store. These layers were stripped off, put on, thrown out to the audience, and placed at intervals across the stripy wall-paper grid laid out on the floor. The stilted script of skipped, silenced, said, and plumily pronounced verbs (and maybe adverbs and even some nouns?) was accompanied by an intermittent finger-pegged nose dictating “Poodles and dictionaries first” , an Alabama drawling: “Why can’t a woman be more like a man” , and a system of signage accompanying her words that lead to a tale insistent on order and structure that edged towards pseudo-feminist meaning. I think. It was funny in places, complex, and generous.
Perhaps you can’t curate works together in the writing of them, perhaps that is to do disservice to the individual works. But there has to be something beyond a string of disparate works held together under one boiler-house roof, beyond a free-for-all ‘go forth and see’, beyond joining the dots of the fairly simple constellations that make up the chapters of performance books in this condensed world of the NRLA.