|Jones and Llyr, A Mouthful of Feathers|
photo Carl Newland
They drool residue onto the white table, making a gloopy multi-coloured patina. Occasionally they attempt to spit confectionery from one mouth to another; failed launches are met with wry smiles. This silent flirting with revulsions and bodily etiquette is youthful and funny—but at the same time suggests a strange entropy, dissipation and doubt. As the evening grows older, discarded chocolates scatter across the Arnolfini floor, as if the performance has a radiation, a half-life, particles falling away like petals from a flower.
The push-me-pull-you of partnerships is explored by several other performing duos at Inbetween Time, in forms that vary from fragile, stately propositions to noisy creative-destructive acts to sheer animal glee.
search party: somehow growing old with you
The fragile and stately first: Search Party are real-life couple Jodie Hawkes and Pete Phillips who we learn met in their 20s. Their show is a love letter to each other, but…wait, no, come back! Somehow Growing Old With You manages to circumnavigate the cloying neediness of a bad wedding ode. It doesn’t feel like a renewal of vows, though that’s essentially what it is: a ceremony, a statement of intent, occasionally demanding the patience you’d give such a thing. But its glacial pace and quiet repetition proves meditative, its moments of emotional beauty dotted about an arid landscape of salt and smoke.
Phillips and Hawkes slow-dance across a carpet of salt that crunches beneath their feet like glass. They walk forward, Hawkes having some sort of unspoken problem with reaching a certain distance, Phillips carrying her to the threshold in a variety of ways, each time failing to convince her to stay. They hold private conversations in inaudible whispers, discussing what to do next, checking their progress with each other in gazes, glances, frowns and smiles. Eventually, they each record a message to camcorder for the future, telling the story of how they met, of how their daughter was born. This is the start of a process wherein Search Party will record such messages every 10 years, for as long as they’re together, or until they’re no longer able to. The inevitability of human decay hangs heavy in the room, announced and committed to tape...but Search Party are carrying that knowledge, that destiny, together. I once heard the artist Franko B wonder at how audiences rarely have a problem with the sharing of pain, but no sooner does an artwork express overt sentimentality than its integrity is doubted. True love is sometimes a dirty secret in live art. This show, unashamedly, reeks of it.
|Action Hero, Frontman|
photo Carl Newland
action hero: frontman
Smoke is also filling the room at Circomedia, but this time it’s rock gig smoke, drifting over a raised stage and guitar amplifiers, shot through by spotlights. Action Hero are premiering Frontman, their lament for the egos of petulant musicians throughout the ages. Previously Gemma Paintin and James Stenhouse have appropriated and assimilated texts from westerns and daredevil spectaculars with a style that sees them rope the audience into the proceedings—shooting down the hero in a hail of imaginary bullets, cheering the motorcycle jump or going silent when the stranger walks into the room. Tonight is slightly different; no less urgent, but another kind of energy, because it centres upon what happens when the contract between audience and performer falters or fails. Paintin holds court in spangled hot pants, making her way through various on-stage crises: hubristic, chaotic, physically destructive, confrontational. It’s a catalogue of ineloquence made either comic or distressing by its amplification. Then, when she finally gives up the ghost and crumples, hands over her ears, the soundtrack takes over, eliminating her, a wall of intense electronic scree with frequencies so violent we reach for the earplugs we’ve been handed before the show begins.
Stenhouse is also on stage throughout, a gangly roadie in rabbit ears, operating technical equipment, untangling cables in a hilariously slow and straight-faced manner. He’s heckled by Paintin and they physically fight on stage. She hides in the shadows and accuses him of ruining everything. It’s exhausting, and you feel for the performers, Paintin especially. Action Hero themselves are a company in the spotlight, their shows the subject of great acclaim. You wonder how much this show is actually about the artists, about their mercurial creative processes, their negotiations, cul-de-sacs and unpredictable life force.
|Pieter Ampe and Guilherme Garrido/CAMPO|
photo Oliver Rudkin
pieter ampe and guilherme garrido/campo: still standing you
And speaking of untameable life forces: the audience for Still Standing You is assembling. It’s 11am. Guilherme Garrido is on stage, precariously seated on an impromptu stool made of his colleague Pieter Ampe’s legs. Ampe’s back is flat on the ground. He seems stoic about the situation. “We’re just waiting for a few more people to come in,” says Garrido, “Then we can begin this breakfast buffet of contemporary European dance.” And my god, I haven’t been this excited by a dance work in years.
I’d love to be able to describe Ampe and Garrido’s performance in intricate technical detail but I’m afraid I watched much of it through gasps, stifled giggles and tears of happy laughter. There’s no music, no set, nothing on the well-lit stage bar our odd couple: Garrido a swarthy Portuguese chatterer; Ampe a wiry, wordless, ginger-haired mega-bearded Belgian. The show is about them working out what they ‘mean’ to each other, and what this means for us is an extraordinary celebration of all the stupid, joyful, hilarious, loud and unlikely things that two human bodies can do to, at, for and with each other in one hour. Ampe and Garrido hurl one another around wrestler-style, make human climbing frames of themselves, play dangerous games of physical one-upmanship, snarling throughout in ridiculous thrash metal vocalisations, gurning, spitting and croaking. Then they finally rip each other’s clothes off, flapping nude about the stage like distressed fish, yanking at each other’s penises as if they were plasticine and locking around and upon one another to make half-men forms, strange animals with human skin, a being made entirely of legs, Siamese dancers, noisy molluscs.
Easily my favourite experience at Inbetween Time, it’s almost easier to describe what Still Standing You wasn’t than what it was. For a show with explicit nudity it wasn’t remotely sexual—despite, for instance, a moment where Ampe opened up Garrido’s foreskin and screamed into it from the top of his lungs. Yep. Read that again. That’s right. It didn’t feel like a masculine initiation rite, because it was so personal to the two individuals before us, rather than existing in a specific cultural place and time. And it wasn’t random and unfocused, because the dance proceeded from one crazy move to the next with a logic that carried the audience with it, making us laugh or wince in anticipation. What it was, at heart, is best expressed by paraphrasing the late great Pina Bausch: not interested in how these two people move, but in what makes them move.
Inbetween Time Festival of Live Art and Intrigue: Jones and Llyr, A Mouthful Of Feathers, Arnolfini, Dec 1; Search Party, Growing Old With You, Wickham Theatre, Dec 2; Action Hero, Frontman, Circomedia, Dec 4; Pieter Ampe and Guilherme Garrido/CAMPO, Still Standing You, Arnolfini, Dec 2; Bristol UK, Dec 1-5
Our coverage of the 2010 Inbetween Time Festival is a joint venture between RealTime and Inbetween Time Productions
Timothy X Atack is a writer, composer and film-maker based in Bristol, UK. He is a member of Sleepdogs and the band Angel Tech. He and Tanuja Amarasuriya, as Sleepdogs, presented The Dead Phone In the 2010 Inbetween Time program. www.timatack.co.uk
RealTime issue #101 Feb-March 2011 pg. 22, web
© Timothy X Atack; for permission to reproduce apply to firstname.lastname@example.org