Thursday, January 8, 2015

'The One Festival: Programme A' at The Space, 7th January 2015

Over the next couple of days I'm going to see 17 small plays at the One Festival. From what I gather these are going to be monologues; bite-sized portions of new drama of varying subject matter and tone. This is very much my performance bag and Programme A largely lived up to expectations, exposing to me to new performers, new ideas and that fun little shivery feeling when you realise you're discovering something.

Programme A consisted of four plays; one longer piece and three shorter ones. First up was Sebastian Rex's Unattended, directed and performed by Tal Jakubowiczova with music by Kevin MacLeod.  We meet a clown who's been sent to the UK from Clownland on an important mission. She's been instructed to meet her contact from the International Clown Union at a train station, but they're late. Unused to the banalities of our world, she's  then tortured by the invisible, robotic station announcer. With three monotonous beeps he announces his presence, first with a commandment that all unattended bags will be destroyed and later building to a direct adversarial relationship .

Hand on heart, I've never quite gotten clowns. I'm not scared of them, but there's something unseemly about those painted rictus grins, red noses and pinned back arched eyebrows.  Sat in the front row, with the clown performer miming right in front of me left me feeling intimidated like few other acts could. There's no ironical distancing yourself from a clown - it's worse than being trapped in a tiger's cage. The awkward feeling is intensified here by the fact that nobody is laughing at the clown's antics. She pratfalls about the stage to stony silence, worriedly glancing up and confusedly asking why we're not laughing.

Tal Jakubowiczova
The pinnacle of awkwardness comes in a sequence where she asks us to laugh along with her. The clown throws her head back and unleashes a toothy, cacophonous guffaw, then stares at us expectantly. The ensuing silence is excruciating. But then (I think) that's the point. The traditional function of a clown is to expose the inherent ridiculousness of our world, something being done here. Also, a well-meaning immigrant falling foul of confusing social mores has a political bite to it, and as the clown insists that she's just here to make us smile there's a glimmer of a point.

For all that this didn't quite work for me. I think the basic idea is to harness the offputting qualities of clowns in order to simulate xenophobia/racism in a presumably liberal crowd. The piece sort of succeeds in this - her antics made my skin crawl - but I don't think the fantastical experiences of a native clown visiting the country map that well onto that of a real immigrant.  It's an interesting dramatic experiment, but not an entirely successful one.

William McGeough
Next up is Nick Myles' Wakey Wakey, performed by William McGeough. The piece is a gradual autopsy of a dead man's life conducted by the man who killed him.  Depressed and bleary eyed, a sad man explains that he's a coach driver who ran someone down. This man, who we later learn is called Mal, stepped off the curb, locked eyes with the driver, mouthed "I'm sorry" and was promptly plaited around the axle.

We proceed to travel through Mal's life, with McGeough playing a co-worker, his best friend and his girlfriend.  Very quickly we realise that Mal's life was one of introversion and depression; any faint glimmers of happiness soon cruelly snuffed out.The workmate attending his funeral mistakes him for another (more popular) Mal, his best friend is a loutish moron and his girlfriend saw him as at best a sympathy case, and at worst as a way to get back at her ex. McGeough quickly exhibits a chameleonic set of performance skills, digging deep into these people to reveal their warped humanities.  It's dead good; effortlessly running the gamut from touching to sadistic.

Emma Blackman
Next up is the hilarious Tatyana and the Cable Man, written by John Doble, directed by Sebastian Rex and performed by Emma Blackman. On a cigarette break at work, Tatyana, a Russian immigrant to the US, lays out the details of her love-life to a silent co-worker. She's been dating the titualar cable man, who initially sounds atrocious - a hard-hearted Fox News watching Republican without an ounce of sympathy. Tatyana explains how she gradually thaws him with a combination of intelligence, culture and good old fashioned socialism.

Occupying the loose borderline of the stereotype, Blackman's accent initially raises a few eyebrows. If you looked up assertive Russian woman in the dictionary you'd get a picture of Tatyana; yet she's sympathetically and smartly fleshed out in a real person. We laugh along with her, enjoy her company and appreciate her intelligence. The gradual evolution of her confused, quietly infatuated cable man is also fun to hear, a detailed picture building in our minds of his behaviour. This was the best thing I saw all night, the humour perfectly dry and the tone precision nailed down.

Dario Coates
Last on was Ode to Sid by Leon Fleming, directed by Scott Le Crass and performed by Dario Coates. It does what it says on the tin; presenting an angry, punkish deification of punk rock god Sid Vicious. Our hero presents an odd sight, crying out his love of punk while wearing a staff 'Philips' t-shirt, the rear of which proclaims him to be a "Christmas Gift Specialist". He explains (quite rightly in my opinion) that Sid is the only true punk - the rest having collapsed into a butter-selling middle age in which they "masturbate to the memory of what they were". Sid, on the other hand, died in a squalid apartment as a filthy murderous smack addict, which is about as punk as it gets.

In it's hero worship there's a glimmer of homoeroticism, especially when our hero wishes that Sid could possess him, be "inside" him. He angrily warns us against thinking of this as "gay stuff", but when he's railing against "the pig" Nancy Spungen for stealing Sid away from world it's difficult not to detect the tinge of jealousy. Knotting together the masculine, destructive bravado of punk rock, confused sexuality and misplaced hero worship makes for a fascinating performance. Coates translates this into a tense, rigidity - as if his body is charged with electricity. I don't know if all the conflicting ideas truly meld, and this feels like a longer run-time would allow the ideas to be more fully explored, but it's still deeply fun to watch.

Can't wait to see what's to come.

The One Festival runs at The Space, Horseferry Road until 18th January.  Tickets and programme here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

0 Responses to “'The One Festival: Programme A' at The Space, 7th January 2015”

Post a Comment

© All articles copyright LONDON CITY NIGHTS.
Designed by SpicyTricks, modified by LondonCityNights