“ERIS” GO BRAGH!: BUNKER THEATRE

THEATRE 

Pity poor Sean. His rigid Irish Catholic family has just barred his English boyfriend from attending his sister’s upcoming nuptials (so as not to offend his more “sensitive”relatives), nevertheless now a moot point as he and partner Tim have recently broken up. Riding a wave of peevish anger and frustration at his treatment, Sean and his irrepressibly energetic, polyamorous roommate Callista devise a strategy to seek out the most inappropriate, indecorous date to bring to the wedding in Tim’s absence, wholly upending the family’s smug conservatism.

Credit indiegogo

And so on to the questionable delights of Tinder and its like. The spirit of the goddess of strife is what drives the plot, and is the source from which scribe John King derives the play’s title. Robbie Taylor Hunt’s boisterous production certainly locates its inspiration in the antic, prickly energy of dispute and discord (perhaps too much so at times, as more than a few moments descend into noisy overkill). Cormac Elliott as Sean is the charming still centre to the backdrop of shifting activity (the supporting members of the ensemble portray multiple roles, much of the time acting as a Greek chorus), and it is within his quiet reflections and poignant interactions with family and erstwhile lover where much of the emotional power of the piece is found.

Credit thespyinthestalls

Four microphones at each end of stage transform into technological conduits-telephone, Skype, Tinder screens, creating a very busy, swirled world of argument and paranoia (that the audience needs to visit the cacophonous, multi-channel catastrophic universe of Tinder talk three times is at least two times too many-we know all we need to know of this chaotic environment after the effective first witness).

Credit thestage

Thank God then, for Elliott’s steadiness and sure sense of character, and for Ashling O’Shea’s endless spasms of extroverted, generous energy as Callista to ground the production’s more physically aggressive,exhaustive aspects-they refuse to have their humanity subsumed. For Sean, as the play progresses, it’s less about fighting for recognition and acceptance from his contentious family than it is in cultivating his own peace and comfort. Eris continues through 28 September

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Credit thelivereview

https://www.bunkertheatre.com/whats-on/eris

 

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DISTRESS:POST-NOMADIC MIND@WAPPING PROJECT

EXHIBITION 

Its history a series of continuous disruptions and conflicts, of impositions of one will upon another, Kazakhstan “Identity” has emerged as the central theme of its native artists throughout the decades, a reflex very much on show at this stunning retrospective at Wapping’s former hydraulic power station. This is a perfect complement of venue and art, as the building itself speaks somewhat forlornly of past industry and labour, a relic that originated amongst the sweat and heave of machine (it alone powered most of the dockside energy when the shipping industry dominated the area), which then transitioned into the luxuriously hip restaurant/gallery space Wapping Project overseen by the formidable Jules Wright when no longer needed as a pumping station, and has, since 2013, lain dormant and inanimate. The cold, vastly desolate spaciousness, its aesthetic industrial rigour, safely houses and mirrors the enormity of the collective artistic voice and exploration on display, itself having experienced several iterations. For every artist who harkens back to a gloriously romanticised, heroic past (the heavy influence of Soviet-era enforcement of fine art tradition), there is another who counters with a candid, metaphorically brutal slap in the face, insistent on not allowing anyone to escape the rot no matter how well disguised or eschewed (look for the marvellous picture of decaying feet just off a stairwell). Saule Suleimenova’s Kelin (Bride) commandingly greets visitors just outside the entrance, a wall-length work of a female face derived from discarded plastic and upscale shopping bags, simultaneously a piquant environmental and gender statement on casual dismissal; Yerbossyn Meldibekov’s Communism Peak, is a collection of crushed metal pots representative of the central mountain peak in the Pamir range which has, through several regime changes and ideological fluctuations, been renamed six times, an inviolable natural monument which has been the locus of symbolic successive grasps at power and control-the range remains supremely indifferent and unchanged despite the puny efforts to subvert and use it for personal influence; Almagul Menlibayeva’s videos attempt to apprehend mythologies and Shamanistic traditions that have been lost throughout occupation and systematic erasure, entire nomadic tribes which have been abandoned and forgotten in Soviet development; Said Atabekov’s film Battle for the Square, immersively projected on opposing walls of the lower gallery, ostensibly references an archaic communal game, but instead feels chaotic and violent in close detail, a wall of crushing sound and teeming activity; Gulnur Mukazhanova’s labyrinthine False Hope, encompassing the length of a side room, is a topographical landscape wrought in colourful silk, a series of serenely floating suspended fragments from the ceiling, the material often used in gift wrapping, beautiful but frivolous; Asel Kadyrkhanova’s harrowing Machine, an engine of tangled, coiled red thread branching out sinisterly from a Cyrillic typewriter to a wall of faded arrest warrants, is an excoriating visual reference to the scale of the Great Purge, each piece of paper a victim of faceless corrupt bureaucratic efficiency and disregard, an organised programme of genocide, an extended symphony of blood and murder; a wall of sewn white faces, stitched in a mass collision, struggle against loss of individual identity in the crushing wave of globalisation with its demands of homogeneity and conformity in Gulnur Mukazhanova’s Mankurts in Megapolis; Aza Shadenova and Askhat Akhmedyarov tenderly use traditional material symbols of womens’ presence in Kazakh society, addressing legacy and place across the centuries; it’s Syrlybek Bekbotayev’s mighty Mothers that expertly synthesises the overarching inquiries of this show, a system of gears onto which he has copied a portion of an iconic Kazakh painting, a picture in constant cyclical motion, an evolution of construction and deconstruction, alluding to the pressures of art to both serve standing authority, and to defy and resist the uses for which those in power may intend it.There’s even a spot for Saule Dyussenbina’s playful and groovy wallpaper motifs which wittily reference Kazakh myth and folklore. Past and present speak across the industrial rooms and floors in a dizzyingly frank dialogue, a society engaged in retrieving and anchoring its history, in celebrating and elevating its nomadic past-it’s a cry from the heart, a fist raised in defiance, against elision. It’s astounding, arguably the show of the year thus far. Post-Nomadic Mind continues through 16 October

https://www.yatzer.com/focus-kazakhstan-post-nomadic-mind 

GUANTANAMO GEPETTO:JORDAN WOLFSON TATE TANKS

THEATRE 

Upon reflection, I am inclined to consider this bracing feat of engineering and computer programming as less a work of traditional art than a spectacularly effective theatrical stunt, the logistics of which are impressive. Impresario Jordan Wolfson offers up a segmented puppet, trussed up in chains, an elaborate hydraulic system sinisterly manipulating its movements, conjuring queasy images of torture and detainment. The figure is dragged across the floor, hoisted high then dropped violently to the ground in a sickening cycle of abuse. Although in appearance Caucasian (the artist has cited Huckleberry Finn, Mad magazine’s mascot Alfred E Neumann and enduring American childrens’ television character Howdy Doody as inspiration), the piece’s title of Coloured Sculpture complicates perceptions with allusions to racial and ethnic concerns of unjust treatment and discrimination by white authority (it’s impossible not to identify the imagery of lynching and drawing-and-quartering in what we see).A sudden, loud blast of Percy Sledge’s soul classic “When A Man Loves A Woman” startles onlookers and is just as abruptly cut off, a disorientation of dissonance, the use of the song perhaps suggesting yet another layer of meaning or intent-a dark psychology underpinning the behaviour of the central character in regards to the female, an inarticulate rage. At one point, the puppet floats over to the assembled audience and launches into a scalding itinerary of invective, facial recognition technology allowing its eyes to track individual members-maybe what we’re witnessing is actually a complex exorcism? The piece may be a jape at the absurdity of white male privilege, positing itself as pathetic victim while still carrying the currency of aggressor (the puppet as a physical piece is both vulnerable and durable). Quite beyond all the theory, the piece works simply as a bold, over-the-top achievement of performance installation. It may uncomfortably allow all your old Chucky (or similar doll-based) nightmares to resurface from wherever you may have thought them safely locked. The exhibition has now closed, but please visit my Instagram to view a few videos from my visit. You can  also find many video documents online.

https://www.tate.org.uk/press/press-releases/jordan-wolfsons-colored-sculpture-comes-life-tanks

 

REQUIEM: ALLELUJAH @ BRIDGE THEATRE

THEATRE 

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Is this would-be state-of-the-nation opus about the crisis within the NHS system by the estimable Alan Bennett meant to be a sober issue-oriented analysis or a knees-up, savagely farcical send-up of governmental hubris and disdain for the common people? A bit of both, but not enough of either, if this farrago is the result. Moment to moment, the script lurches clumsily from the sentimental to the polemical to the comical, without ever finding a proper way to integrate its many moods.

Credit british theatre guide

A group of elderly patients, many of whom are not gravely ill, while away their days in the geriatric ward of a Yorkshire medical facility founded on archaic (so the play would describe) principles such as compassion and assistance (most have been abandoned there by relatives happy to be unburdened of them, casualties as well of a lack of any sort of comprehensive social care system). Often, they break into song and dance, belting out old standards, in defiance of age and position, of being forgotten.

Credit britishtheatre

Singled out for particular vituperation is the civil servent son of one garrulous patient, ostensibly onsite to belatedly visit his father but actually there to facilitate the closure of the hospital for his Whitehall boss in a streamlining strategy; the grasping administrator, wholly self-serving and cowardly, consumed with entitlement; and a film crew hired to record the campaign to celebrate the integrity of the community institution who are more interested in ferreting out lurid and salacious detail of its operations.  Homicide is suggested, just before the interval, as the inevitable byproduct of a ferocious targets-driven agenda (available beds become the symbol of ultimate success or failure in this environment).

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This is a crass system that steadily consumes and erodes any idealism or energy that may have initially motivated its workers. An immigrant doctor whose genuine concern for and interest in his patients is unassailable, is eventually called before a board to determine his right to residency (shades of possible calamitous implications to come next March when Brexit kicks in),  which leads to a rather bizarre, bewildering reprimand addressed straight to the audience, a scolding call for Britain to wake up and reassess its priorities- a sudden, strange harangue that stops the momentum dead.

Credit sierz

With over 25 characters squaring off for space on stage, it’s impossible to know any character expect in the broadest terms, the constant wicked (albeit clever) wit the most overweening personality trait. I feel that no one involved really wanted to alienate the audience, either with too much anger or militancy, rather settling for a cosy, anodyne middlebrow ground. The script feels both rushed and overstuffed, as if one or two drafts away from true refinement. Curious, given all the professionals involved in the development. Allelujah continues through 29 September

https://bridgetheatre.co.uk/