Friday, October 17, 2014

'Swines' at 47/49 Tanner Street, 16th October 2014

Every time I go to a show with unassigned seating I do my level best to sit in the middle of the front row.  You don't have to deal with gigantic hairdos blocking the action, you get to stretch your legs out a bit and everything feels that much more immediate.  For some the downside is an increased chance to get singled out by a performer on stage, but not once has that ever turned disastrous for me.  So Swines got in my good books early on for acknowledging my excellent choice in seating by awarding me a three bonus points in their personality quiz.

Billing itself as a satirical examination of the current political climate, Swines allows us to live the dream of getting our perfect job.  Upon entering the venue we're given a sticker with "unemployed" scrawled across it.  Wearing this, we become contestants on a surreal and sadistic gameshow that uses psychometric testing as a way to sort the wheat from the chaff.

You're marked on any number of tiny things; eye contact, seating choice, quick thinking, choice in biscuits - all with an aim to reduce the audience to a set of numbers.  Our vaguely Satanic host is Anne Hightower Waring, she dons a sequinned gold jacket and trots up and down the stage to electro-rock.  Accompanying her are two lowly interns (Catriona Kerridge and Heledd Watkins).  They open the show by crawling from a tent looking, with their crummy clothes and downtrodden demeanours, like neo-Dickensian moppets. 

Waring tosses water at them, verbally abuses them and makes them kneel in supplication; a pretty accurate and depressing window into the life of a modern chore whore.  These two are the heart of the show, quietly representing 'us' on stage; sullenly singing through R Kelly's I Believe I Can Fly or doing a blank-faced skeleton dance to the tasteful pop. During the false 'advert breaks', while Waring goes off for a crafty fag, the two engage in surreal performance art; crumbling a biscuit and glitter onto the floor or pulling a banana across stage in a tiny wee shopping cart.

Considering that Swines lives and dies on audience participation (and has an almost Roald Dahlian overbearing host) it's remarkably unintimidating.  For some the prospect of a show where you can be summoned onto the stage and quizzed (or forced to armwrestle) is utterly terrifying, but Bad Host Theatre stays just the right side of approachably ramshackle. The performers never take what's going on particularly seriously; by the end of the show a camaraderie has developed between us that goes gangbusters.

Swines is undoubtedly fun but it's not exactly cutting political satire.  Taking aim at "competition as entertainment" is a pretty fuzzy target; though I suppose it does get at the heart of free market ideology.  Still, a more than worthwhile way to spend fifty minutes and a very charismatic, friendly company to watch.

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