10 performances that did it for me in 2015
Listed in the order I saw them:
Age & Beauty Part 1: Mid-Career Artist/Suicide Note or &:-/
Gibney Dance, New York City as part of American Realness
This was the first performance I saw in 2015, and at the time I wouldn’t have said I necessarily loved it. I think I found it confusing and a little strange. As 2015 has carried on, though, the show has stayed with me; the pink swimsuit, the stark white space, the moving legs, the queerness, the music. The two performers saying the words ‘we are the dancers’ in different variations of vowel length and emphasis, but always completely in sync. It’s a performance I have continued to talk and think about, and watching this video clip makes me wish I could see it again.
You’re Not Alone
Soho Theatre, London
I felt myself being opened up by this show–it got inside me in ways I’m still figuring out. While watching film footage and explanations of the artist’s questionable (but on lots of levels utterly relatable) activities that were all about reaching towards other people, I found myself laughing a truly hysterical and confusing laugh.
Bristol Marriott Hotel as part of Mayfest
I was lying on a bed alone in a hotel room with pale yellow walls holding a bright red phone and talking to a woman I had never met before and she said she was a death midwife and I was telling her that I was 32 and had never known anyone that closely who had died I had never even been to a funeral before and isn’t that crazy, I was saying it will probably happen soon that a relative will die and I’m 32 and I’m terrified of that because I won’t know how to handle it and she was telling me no one really does. She told me sometimes it’s nice to record people’s voices before they’re gone and now I might secretly record Christmas dinner.
Gillie Kleiman, Charles Adrian Gillott, Jamie Wood, Mamoru Iriguchi, Anne Langford, Paul Hughes, Emma Frankland, Amelia Stubberfield, Vera Chok, Dan Watson, Will Green, Christine Wood, Jessica Hanna, Sonny Valicenti, Nick Konow, Heather Ehlers, Bob Cucuzza, Nicole Disson
The Yard, London as part of NOW ’15, 9-13 June
Bootleg Theater, Los Angeles as part of LAX Festival, 20-24 October
This is sort of a cheat because it’s my own piece of work, but I’d be missing out a hugely impactful performance viewing experience from this year if I didn’t mention it. I’m not saying the quality of the piece itself was so amazing (they were in-development shows), but the experience I had handing over the work to two new performers each night and watching from the audience was a new and exhilarating experience. Watching and connecting with each of these terrific, generous and trusting performers was a complete gift.
My Son and Heir
Forest Fringe, Edinburgh
A friend and I had been talking about whether either of us wanted to/thought it was feasible in our lives to have kids at some point. It’s a conversation that has come up several times between us throughout the year. Every time we have talked about it, we each lean towards the ‘probably not’ side of fence, which is fine and also maybe not fine.
The audience for this show is in two seating banks facing each other, and my friend and I were sitting on opposite sides. After lots of hilarious and wonderful parts of the performance there was a bit where a list of promises or gifts or hopes (I can’t remember exactly) to the performers’ children was spoken, and I looked across at my friend and there were tears in her eyes. Which sounds very poetic and moving, but it was mostly just complicated.
A Game of You
This is a performance each audience member experiences on their own. I ended up telling a performer lots of personal stuff because it happened so fast. There’s a part where you have to make up a whole inner life for a stranger–how they feel about themselves, what they’re into, what has disappointed them–and I was shocked to find out I was accidentally talking about myself. The hall-of-mirrors quality in which you’re reflected back at yourself in a million different ways within a short space of time is really something.
Janet and Les
Inveroran Hotel, Scotland
This is a slightly eye-roll entry, admittedly, but I couldn’t not include it. I walked the West Highland Way in September and one night in the middle of one of the more remote stretches of the trail I stopped to camp by a stream near the Inveroran Hotel. It was cold and I thought I would go into the hotel and sit with a drink and a book before I had to get into the cold tent. Janet and Les, two self described ‘Old Scottish’, were the only other people there. They told me how they used to come there when they were young and it would be full of people drinking and laughing and singing. They started buying me drinks. Two single malts later they went out to their caravan and came back with a guitar and fiddle. Five single malts after that, I took this video. They had been singing songs and telling stories in that empty room that many years ago had not been so empty. It was a great performance.
Freud Playhouse, Los Angeles
I’m forever a fan.
There’s a lot in this piece that keeps coming back to me. A learned series of arm movements. A video played on a little TV of a man and a woman doing really normal things in a kitchen. Blacked out teeth. Matching outfits, synced up moving. Like the Miguel Gutierrez piece, at the time I was watching it I found myself a little baffled, but in a way I was happy to go along with. And then something would happen–a sentence or a bit of video or a movement or an image–that would just get me.
For me these things were orbiting around an idea of partnerships and their perpetual in-progress state. When I went to see it, I had been spending most of my year renegotiating my own partnerships in every sense; with people, with myself, with work, with cities. These negotiations will never be finished, and that makes the deepest partnerships both an ever-evolving joy and also impossible. This piece encouraged me to think about that in a way that felt new.
Again I find myself bringing my life shit into a performance with me. This was a pairing of two performances both about time; one was on the past, the other, the future. This was my second viewing of both shows.
Like You Were Before asks you to consider the person you used to be. How in a lot of ways, if you go back far enough, you actually were a different person. I first saw this piece on 28 April 2011 at Stoke Newington International Airport as part of London Word Festival (neither of which exist anymore). I went on my own. At the time, I was working full time as a strategist at an advertising agency in Oxford Street, and I had never made a performance before.
I first saw The Future Show on 11 January 2013 at Battersea Arts Centre, but in a different room to where I saw it this year. In 2013, I remember going with two friends who brought their baby. By that time I had quit my job at the advertising agency. As I watched the piece again this year, I thought about how a lot of what Deborah had predicted on 11 January 2013 had probably not happened, but that some of it probably had. I thought about all the people I had been in the past and all the people I might be in the future, and I felt excited and scared.
Bonus moments, because I’m a fan of these artists/shows:
Made in China
Tonight I’m Gonna Be the New Me
Forest Fringe, Edinburgh
The Yard, London as part of NOW ’15
That bit where she slowly spins on that platform and the music 😵😐😭😒😩😷😒😍😍😍😍😂😁😘😘😱😱😱👽👽👽