|Bodies in Flight, Secrets of Saints|
A young woman (Polly Frame) strides into the space. Fashionably mysterious in dark glasses, her face is partly concealed by a white muffler. The audience now see themselves, green and strange, cast on the wall by her webcam.
She flings herself to the floor delivering a monologue, although it is not clear if it is recorded or spoken live. She has a regional accent, and her voice is harsh, as though filtered; she speaks in long strings of words, frequently stopping on a stutter, often on the brink of expressing something. Syllables are pouring out of her and somehow it is hypnotic: she repeats and fluidly rearranges phrases, playing with puns, ellipses and dislocations. “One’s and what’s, one’s and knots, bons mots.”
The webcam is now focused on the inside of her jacket as she scrabbles about on the floor on her side, crawling and grovelling up and down the rectangle of audience. Whatever she is saying is hard to make out, but the mood is intense and desperate. Her agile string of words pleases in its complexity. There’s an almost mathematical pleasure in hearing it, as if it were a string of randomised equations. She interjects shouted comments in a harsher tone. “Quote!” she snaps, drawing herself up tensely.
She stops on a sentence, “Utterly being unable…” and the pause is unbearable. She sits up, impatient. “To what?” she shouts at herself. “To discerner [sic].” She relaxes, relieved. She’s lost her frantic motion. Meanwhile, the naked man has put on a pair of underpants.
The work continues in sections differentiated by tone and degrees of intelligibility. The man emerges from his corner in stages, but is often startled back into it by a harsh movement on the part of the woman. In one section, her voice becomes warm and rich, with a burr to it, and her movements correspondingly softer; the talk is about air, skin, warmth and summer. She lies back and removes her disguises, her form cast in freeze frame on the wall. By now the young man has trousers on. He pushes the small monitor from his camcorder towards her.
The mood changes again and the man runs back behind his pillar. The woman’s monologue is low, intense and bitter—she crouches around the audience, making us feel uncomfortable, sometimes making eye contact, mostly not. She is hunched up, speaking into the gadget, mooning over the monitor. There is talk of insufficiency and falling. Apparently she is reflecting on “the full horror of the absence of love.”
Another mood change; she lies down and speaks in her natural voice; she’s happier. The ecstasy picks up, and suddenly she is in full Lawrence mode: “Oh joyful body of the man that comes to me! Oh wonderful flesh and exotic mind!” She steps out of the guarding rectangle; everything is expansive. The man plays a guitar with golden sunflowers on its strap. The large projection is disconcertingly cheesy—trees and fields, flowers and sea. The girl sings a hymn to phallic energy and the power of sex: suturing lips, osmotic minds, loving oneself in the other: “We have fucked love into this void.”
Polly Frame gives a fantastic performance. It’s blazing, open, vivid, and not a little scary. She is staring out of windows (she drew up the blinds), pacing the walls and emoting bliss. If she were making eye contact at this stage, it would be totally unnerving.
Interactivity was not so much required from the audience as flexible joints and certain passivity. The language was dizzying, the progression of ideas baffling in its intensity. It’s a journey of strange segues, wallowing in one self-absorbed state of mind after another.
Secrets of Saints, Bodies in Flight, performers Polly Frame, Neil Johnson, writer Simon Jones, choreographer Sara Giddens, Arnolfini Light Studio, Feb 2
Osunwunmi is an artist/facilitator working out of Bristol.
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