Sepulchrally trippy, it’s best to wholly acquiesce your senses to the playfully sinister assault of this performance piece (an equal mix of end-of-the-world cabaret, rave and avant-garde exercise) perpetrated by the ceaselessly imaginative dance duo Requardt and Rosenberg. Known for their outdoor theatre installations (Electric Hotel, in which a series of dramatic narratives took place across the floors of a transient hotel using the facade of a building marked for demolition in King’s Cross; The Roof, situated in a car park just across from the National Theatre, was a 360-degree panoramic experience of ever-frantic free running that took its audience-via headset-into the haunted mind of a figure trapped within a brutal digital universe), this is their first indoor staging which has in no way constricted or compromised their content and reach. The audience is ushered into the space and arranged (standing) in two rings that wrap  across all sides of the raised stage-we are not mere spectators in this instance, but fellow lost and bewildered subjects, hovering uncomfortably and confusedly in some strange anteroom of death, a throng of the hovering damned. Restless lights continually stalk the parameters of the stage, occasionally stopping on particular audience members who, in a sudden stark bath of spotlight, are personally granted a serenade or dance or, in one case,  asked to give eulogy. Memory keeps slipping-in the very few sequences of dialogue (enacted by tiny, fragile wood figures onstage, trapped in harsh pools of light, subsumed by the vast stretches of the space, with anxious voiceovers), meaning and access seems to be perpetually just out of reach. One performer wanders around in nothing but an artfully compromised pair of pants, not yet surrendering to his surroundings, out of step with his cohabitants. He angrily attempts to crush their propulsive onslaught, but the figures are irrepressible and formidable in their march towards a darker destiny. Crows, dismembered arms and other unsettling objects crash the stage from above-eventually the carcass of a deer makes an appearance. Initial movements and actions are still in thrall to a form of revelry, all harlequin wardrobe and go-go steps and party hats, as if not yet fully aware of consequences, graduating to more formal, almost Victorian vestment and regimented choreography as solemn annihilation draws nearer. The pummelling industrial soundtrack steadily builds to a shattering crescendo as the characters are, one by one, slowly swallowed into the ground, limbs akimbo, fully claimed (the use of trap doors throughout is marvellously, impressively poetic-you so fully concentrate on one bit of action that certain performers appear and disappear without your comprehension, even with the contrivance so bluntly apparent). The piece may have had more power had it ended on this most severe of notes, if our final moment was one of shattering percussion and heart-stopping blackout, but there is a coda which softens the savagery, the figures resurrected onstage, small orbits of slow-motion dance, as if to suggest the cycle has started anew, with a separate but same group, characters beyond identity and individuality, merely a faceless collection of the condemned. It’s impossible not to feel thoroughly shaken and stirred, and ineffably transformed. This piece is a great collaboration between a visionary company and The Place, London’s premier venue of new and emerging dance artists, who have radically restructured their performance space for this event. DeadClub continues through 30 September








Pity poor tech billionaire wunderboy Luke who, upon instruction from God (a nightmarishly challenging claim for his chagrined pr director to sensitively negotiate) wanders into the American landscape to address the issue of violence, in all its various forms. A genius of external tech innovation (in the fields of aeronautics and artificial intelligence), organising the labyrinthine morass of internal and personal psychology and motivation proves a rather different creature. Most eagerly wish for a platitude or slogan to explain away the unfathomable. As much as our digital world would like to reduce the population to easily digestible algorithms, subtly manipulating our actions (late in this nearly three-hour epic a CEO of an Amazon-like monolith hilariously, but alarmingly, explains his new aesthetic for “relational purchasing”, which announces itself as an online sharing culture, but fundamentally passive-aggressively exploits users’ anxieties around associating with correct consumer choices), people persist in irrational and messy behaviour. I appreciate that, through Luke’s passage, playwright Christopher Shinn grasps at (several) big themes-school shootings, campus rape, sexual abuse, corporate encroachment on privacy, political correctness-but I’m not sure his conclusions are as profound or as complex as they ought to be. There’s a stubborn diffidence and coyness to the script just as it should be accelerating, a failure of nerve to dimensionally target the specific social, cultural, religious and political forces that give rise to such startling eruptions of violence (there are numerous tossed off lines that merely scratch the skin of topics). Perhaps part of this is intended: Luke, like many a messianic figure, must reach the frustrating understanding that most individuals crave easy answers and quick solutions, perfectly content to have all the hard work for the self done for them by an instructive authority: in Luke’s bewildered but steady response, I thought of Bresson’s Diary of a Country Priest, the titular figure similarly struck by the refusal of his parishioners to examine themselves comprehensively and critically-the danger is that worship can quickly sour to resentment if not consistently placated.  The staging is stark and spare, like the people who populate it, hollowed out and searching. Ben Whishaw, with his spindly frame and still demeanour, a slightly cadaverous appearance, expertly embodies this questing, intensely earnest interloper-he projects a strange, ethereal energy many would find soothingly charismatic and want to follow. Both Whishaw and Shinn are sure to keep him credible as a human being as well, suggesting a spiritual and sexual constipation, an estrangement from self, that slowly lifts throughout the play. How much of what Shinn explores is a particularly American affliction is unclear: would the play need to be revised if set on another continent or country? An intriguing contemplation. Even if a bit facile near the end, the final scene gratifies, a moment of intimate connection for two people who have struggled to communicate through barriers of vulnerability, fear and pride: it’s in this sudden, simple and small brave openness, perhaps, where redemption and answer is found against all the noise and hostility and blood. Against runs through 30 September






The personal is powerfully present in the works curated for this show featuring 11 female artists working with found objects (each work a form of rescue), memory and identity the currency pulsing through the material. Particularly intrinsic to the ethos of borrowing is the idea that most likely something will be given back in kind-it is not an act of solely taking. Intention is generous, open and appreciative. Whether using objects from their personal archives or appropriating from available sources (thrift shops, the internet, nature), the artists create resonant and haunting inquiries into the spaces linking the individual to the mythic. Ruth Franklin’s The Salon and Memories of Manya seek to reclaim the very souls of her family members through the use of items both domestic and industrial that figuratively suggest their essence, enshrining them for history (facets of detail place the pieces in a distinctive era); 
Mindy Lee’s Repeat Prescriptions Series is an array of personal prescription forms generated by her doctor aligned in a vitrine onto which she has intricately scrawled (in biro!) beautifully wrought drawings that recall both the works of Great Masters and graphic medical textbook examples of anatomy-some of the paper has started to curl with age and decay, meditating on queasy issues around the body, health and mortality; Hannah Honeywill’s Scar, with a suture of delicate red thread, salvages a slab of mighty, stately elm (already a chronicle of history with its rings) from a savage and potentially devastating break; Lisa Snook’s Time is but a memory and Desire is where it Dreams (a weathered oval mirror with long, withered strands of hair hanging dejectedly from the frame) and I Dream of Flying, the title of which is elaborately and painstakingly embroidered onto a cotton pillow with threaded hair, a hush of feathers gathered on the floor from a broken seam, speak of anxiety and disquiet (triggered by age and decline) around the nexus of appearance and sleep (with its twin energies of both rejuvenation and death); Kate Murdoch’s All That Is Left is a requiem for her grandmother, an old cosmetics cabinet found long discarded with a few contents still inside-a bar of soap, a few powder puffs-that stands in poignant memoriam to her relative, once a vessel of vital use full of agents of enhancement and balm now moribund and frail; Susan Francis’s Vicarious Beth constructs, from numerous thumbnail images taken from a profile page off the internet, a roadmap of a life across one wall of the gallery-the route is non-linear, branching off on detours and tributaries, much like life itself, coaxing out the monumentality of a single life from the confines of digital space. There are a few works which balance the serious with felicity, most memorably Murdoch’s The Borrower’s Revolt, which finds a formation of corseted brass figurine “belles” marching from the recesses of one of the room’s fireplaces and Sarah Gillham’s Castoffs, a group of porcelain dolls that morph into twisted elongated bases (or in some cases stunted bases), alienlike, of which H.R. Giger would deeply approve-they manage to be playful and unnerving simultaneously. Murdoch’s Borrow A Cup of Sugar takes the aesthetic to its interactive extreme, encouraging viewers to depart with a vintage china cup full of sugar cubes and return later to the gallery (please, before the close of the show!) with an item of value to exchange. All of the objects on display are charged with meanings and history long in play before their appearance at the space, the artists honouring and ennobling them as fragile repositories of emotional, physical and psychological experience, refashioning them into items that can tell new stories and carry fresh incarnations and inflections. On 30 September, the gallery is hosting a conversation with the collective artists from 4-6PM.





As it closes in one week’s time, I would be remiss not to mention this comprehensive curation of all manner of British art (painting, photography, sculpture) chronicling a queer aesthetic (both coded and overt) from the year sodomy was no longer punishable by death (in 1861, when it was merely downgraded to grounds for imprisonment) to the partial decriminalisation of sex between men in 1967 (permissible if both consenting partners were over 21). The works may be of wildly varying quality, but I can guarantee that for the casually curious visitor that many of these works will have never been seen before, and may never be exhibited again-and therein lies the fascination and value of this installation. The earliest works coyly hide their homoeroticism in the studied language of Greek and Roman idealisation of beauty, narcotised, dreamy contemplations of coupled and group dynamics of mutual adoration (and in Frederic Leighton’s The Sluggard, suggested by Michealangelo, an artist’s unselfconscious appreciation of individual beauty). Other rooms reveal portraits (some plain, some abstract) of lost historical progressive figures who were living fairly open, unobstructed lives with partners or experimenting successfully with gender fluidity long before there was even proper definition, much less open discussion, of such topics (social activist Edward Carpenter, Edith Cooper and Katherine Bradley who created the collective identity Michael Field, jewellery designer Charles Ricketts, Harry Daley, a cultured, out police constable who eventually wrote a memoir of his brief love affair with E.M. Forster), along with more high-profile figures such as Radclyffe Hall, Vita Sackville-West and Oscar Wilde (often cited as the cautionary tale of living a life too candidly in a repressive age). The Bloomsbury set is catalogued, of course, with their experiments in alternative lifestyle “utopias”. Even the final room, with the somewhat predictable duo of 20th century titans Bacon and Hockney representing the age when queer themes and compulsions could be more assertively addressed, finds more obscure works by each (including some of Hockney’s graduate work, with which I was unfamiliar).

I was very happy to make the acquaintance of John Craxton’s fascinating cubist, prismatic works and Henry Scott Tuke’s sun-stroked beach idylls, as well as witness the self-portrait of Laura Knight (the first female member of the Royal Academy since 1769). The exhibition is generously split between both sexes, not favouring one gaze over the other, and is all the richer for it. This is the rare instance when a concentrated read of each accompanying text rewards a deeper understanding of the exhibition-the dimension and diversity of an entire concealed history is coaxed out to freedom. The show runs through 1 October






A playground of primary colours, Colourscape is an acre-long structure composed of interlocking inflatable tents (the plastic membranes of which are treated with a series of resins and glues) that interact with available natural light to create striking fields of profound colour that quite forcefully alter the perception of viewers as they move through the space. The experience (located on a corner of Clapham Common) can be disorienting: the path is not necessarily linear, as you are encouraged to venture through side passages or detour into corners. It’s possible to start feeling completely unmoored and rootless, as if you have suddenly begun to float-it’s increasingly difficult to feel grounded (all surfaces are softened and have give). Movement assumes a dreamy pace, thoughts subside, distinguishing doorways grows harder (sometimes appearing as mirrored surfaces until your senses resolve them correctly)-you feel oddly held in place, a concentration of focus. Direction and depth is obscured-the tunnels appear to go on forever, one quintessence of colour upon the next, an infinity. On entry, each visitor is required to wear a coloured cape, which has the desired effect inside of stripping identity, colonising all the gathered subjects. On weekends musicians positioned throughout the structure add yet another dimension of movement and sound to the space. Originating in 1971, the creation of Peter Jones, the Colourscape has evolved dramatically in scope and function over the course of decades, reaching its apotheosis now-it’s obliterating in the most pleasurably and transformatively immersive way, a feat of the psychological and emotional effects of colour.


In comparison, Flynn Talbot’s Reflection Room (now in the V&A’s Prince Consort Gallery until 24 September, appearing as a feature of London Design Festival), fails to reach the glory of what Colourscape offers. Set within the atmospheric environs of what was once the textile samples room (the beautiful broad oak cabinets once held 30000 pieces), a 35-metre long narrow chamber with a stunning vaulted ceiling, Talbot positions tubes of orange light on one side of the gallery with a matched set of blue at the other and a series of  56 black reflective panels along the side walls (made of a non-flammable PVC sheet material under the brand name Barrisol) which hold and conduct a gentle translucent conversation between the opposed bodies of light. Flynn chose the colours specifically, as he determined that the cool blue and lively orange have naturally complementary relations. The experience is soothing and calming, I suppose, but fleeting-Colourscape blasted the senses and aroused the deepest centre of imagination and will linger longingly in mind.






Along with the annual Sculpture in the City (situated on the streets amongst the wheel-and-deal of London’s most august financial institutions, and now rapidly mounting modern builds), this public and free installation adjacent to Regent Park’s picturesque English Gardens is a feast of spoils for the culturally curious. Curated by Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s Clare Lilley, the concisely-arranged display consists of 25 works under the aegis of a host of international galleries. Usually installed within the parameters of the Frieze Fair itself (the duration of which is four days in early October), in 2016 the decision was taken to extend the sculpture garden autonomously for two months following the festival, this year amended to the two months prior (a sage choice given the majority of spectators will now be able to enjoy the pieces in optimum weather conditions). The idyllic afternoon I visited (sun-drenched and mild), a convivial crowd was speaking with great animation about the surrounding works, some gathered in furious discussion seated on the grass, some sketching, others musingly strolling through the trail. The works range broadly in conception from the playful to the freaky to the sober, equally matched by the materials used, from bronze to iron to wood to plastic to canvas, an array of technique. Most impressive are Miquel Barcelo’s Gran Elefandret, an homage to the fragility of the artistic inspiration when addressing monumental themes, a precarious balancing act that ultimately rewards the artist’s strength in negotiating the terms (or it could be a celebration of anyone who sustains in spite of the bulk of crushing pressure)-its hide resembles a volcanic landscape, a bulbous texture of distress; John Chamberlain’s Fiddler’s Fortune, with its popping pink confectionery hue, is a frolicsome mess of the nautical and musical, constructed of aluminium and foil, simultaneously inhibited and flamboyant; Kaws’s Final Days, menacing in scale, is a video game figure come to glowering life-its intentions may be benign, but the senses are wary when at its (oddly) oversized feet. It inspires unease overall while doing nothing overt in the least, a Disney character somehow soiled-it’s a feat of engineering, once you comprehend that what at a remove appears as plastic is actually wood curved and shaped into humanlike figure. John Wallbank’s Untitled (Sewn Cube), a simple piece of canvas sewn at each side with blue thread to suggest a tent, at first may seem fairly unsophisticated but upon reflection speaks of migrancy and disenfranchisement, its placement at the fringes of the trail an elaboration upon the themes of disempowerment; Alicja Kwade’s Big Be-Hide, with its mirrors and reflections and two identical stones (one original, one an aluminium cast), is a fascinating study in mutability and dimension, a metaphor for the many guises one body may assume, angles of perception either concealing or revealing; Emily Young’s Planet, a crumbling, detailed face carved straight from a slab of cliff rock, could be a celestial emissary from a distant culture, or more simply an example of time and decay-a walk around it reveals universes in the crevices and cracks, transporting the viewer instantly to hillsides and seafronts conjured by memory; similarly, Ugo Rondinone’s Summer Noon, a cast of a dead tree in lush white paint, mocks the natural landscape with its artificiality, signalling the creeping entropy that will eventually claim the environment and those inhabiting it; Reza Aramesh’s Metamorphosis-a study in liberation, a bound human figure (the head and face of which is mythological beast) whose distorted posture speaks of enforced servility, is suggestive of slavery or war victim-the figure is bent, but defiant, undeterred, and curiously homoerotic. I could go on and on, but it’s best to discover surprises along the way (a few of which I include here, very naughtily), and no doubt each person will respond to different works and have particular favourites. That’s the beauty of such a wide-ranging event. Frieze 2017 continues through 8 October




As I experienced this theatre production from the Young Vic as a transmission into cinemas as part of the NT Live screenings programme, I don’t know if I’m qualified to speak to its strengths or failures relative to staging, but enough of the raw and harrowingly intimate material surfaces even through the scrim of a camera that I can assume from a seat stage side one’s senses would certainly be shattered. The chance to view this piece at all was very welcome, as the run is entirely sold-out and otherwise I would need to be content to merely read about this celebrated and award-winning mounting (especially Billie Piper’s full-throttle, rafter-rattling performance). The script’s title translates as “barren”, and concerns the lead character’s (referred to only as “Her”, as if Everywoman) increasingly frustrated and debilitating efforts at conceiving a child, the vicissitudes of which lead eventually to madness and self-destruction. The play originated as a 1934 “tragic poem” by Lorca, often considered as one aspect of his rural trilogy, studies of hard-bitten peasantry and harsh life circumstances, especially the limited options available to women of the time, when the apotheosis of identity and worth was in being able to deliver an heir, the greatest disgrace a childless, infertile marriage. Writer Simon Stone somewhat bewilderingly updates the material to present day London, the heroine now a successful lifestyle blogger and journalist, one-half of a fairly well-to-do and privileged bourgeois couple, upwardly mobile, all modern convenience immediate and available. I assume this storyline, in its given era, in a society greatly ruled and ordered by religious doctrine and societal constraints, didn’t need much explanation as to its lead’s lament, unfolding almost as liturgy. Although Piper gives every shudder of nerve and tremor of anxiety a clear and purposeful genuineness (she becomes an open wound), Stone isn’t able to layer in a convincing contemporary psychological subtext to the lead’s breakdown (is it cultural or biological imperatives that unwind her) and the material skirts dangerously towards reductive Freudian stereotypes of women as irrational, unreasonable and hysterical beings which seems wildly out of place in modern terms. The characters stalk each other on stage from within a glass cage, as if subjects of forensic study, the space mutating from home interior to yard to, in one late sequence, the grounds of a music festival that plays like a sad descent into a ring of Dantean hell-the lighting scheme starts warm and embracing, shading into a sere and arid despondency. In latter stages, as the interactions become more aggressive and confrontational, the stage takes on the personality of a boxing ring-characters talk over one another, spar like fighters, become increasingly unhinged in behaviour, staggeringly incomprehensible to each other (the scripts suffers from schematic relationships-short, staccato scenes of Piper confronting her husband over her perception that he doesn’t really want a child, her sister whose womb seems spectacularly overproductive, a mother she senses could have done without the burden of children, a former lover with whom an opportunity was crushed). Frenzied choral bursts and blunt, bold-faced intertitles punctuate scene changes with thrash-rock flourish as the play inexorably builds to its bloody, brawling conclusion. Whereas in the original text the woman’s fury finds expression outside herself, Stone settles for self-implosion, a strike directly at the source of the issue, which feels both suspicious and fairly risible-a perplexing, sadistic punishment that’s only plausible because Piper makes you fully aware of the caustic consequence of what she perceives as an enormous cosmic joke. Even when the material is lacking credibility, Piper’s fury and ferocity is entirely on key-you accept it because she sells it. Yet most of the exhaustion and shred nerves upon departure are from the sustained shrill vocal volume rather than authentic disturbance. Yerma has just ended its run, but watch for encore performances at cinemas.