10 performances that did it for me in 2020
This year I thought maybe I’d give this post a miss—I thought nobody would be interested, it’s not relevant and anyway I didn’t see much this year. Just out of curiosity I started to look back at my diary so see what I saw, and I had an experience both like and unlike my usual looking back.
Every year when I write this post, I end up looking back at my diary, and my eye scans each day for shows that I saw. While looking for shows, I accidentally glance over most of what I did that year—plans I made, drinks with friends, dinners, meetings, trips but also life events in between that aren’t written down but that I remember on a timeline in reference to other things. I don’t need to go into what did or didn’t populate my 2020 diary in terms of going out and socialising—in many ways my diary will be similar to yours and no one needs to hear What Lockdown Means to Me.
Once I decided not to write this post, I found I couldn’t stop looking at my diary and picking out the things I saw or watched, and as cliché as it is, I found that writing this is more for me than for anyone else. It’s an excuse, yes, to look at my year as an audience member (which I love doing), but also to look back at each individual day over the past year—remembering little moments, sensing the undulating shape of the year as I experienced it, bouncing back and forth and back again to things that happened and seeing them through my current eyes. Looking at the shape of a period of time whilst also taking the linearity out of it.
The significant elements of these remembered performances of 2020 are mostly in the moments and meanings in the periphery or just out of sight. And my strongest connections with them are about how I saw or watched with a friend and what was happening at that time or maybe the artist or performer was a friend I hadn’t seen all year, which meant the performance was like hanging out with them. It drove home the fact that, yes, I do love complex, interestingly put together, smart, challenging performance work, but for me performance is also a centre of gravity that attracts people I like and people who I think are interesting. When I go to see or experience a performance, in the periphery I usually bump into people who I like and care about and who I’ve known for years, but who I wouldn’t make specific plans to see otherwise. There are conversations about life, about the work we’re seeing, about our work, about ideas, about other people. There are drinks and accidental beginnings of new plans. There are recommendations because ‘knowing you, I think you would like this’.
Looking back at these performances reminded me of all the many things in the periphery.
Listed in the order that I saw them.
Iggy Lond Malmborg
Physics and Phantasma
I went to Brussels with my friend Rachel especially to see this. I didn’t know much about it, I just read the description, saw an image and thought I might like it, so I asked Rachel if she wanted to go. We took the Eurostar and stayed for only one night and it felt brilliantly extravagant. I loved the show—it was spare and meaty and largely played with description and imagination.
The Yard, London
This was my last night out before lockdown. I went with my friend Anne. There was a memorable moment in the show where we all sat on the Yard stage around, if I remember correctly, a phone as if it was a camp fire, which was a moment that stuck in my mind and grew in poignancy as March and April unfolded. After the show Anne and I went for a few beers nearby and noticed things were very quiet for a Friday night in Hackney Wick.
Our living room, London
My housemate Danielle picked up her flute, which she hadn’t played in years, and spent a week practicing after announcing she would hold a recital in the living room the following Saturday night. When the evening came, my other housemate and I dressed up and waited in the bar (our kitchen) while having pre-drinks. When the house opened, Dani was sitting on stage (the living room rug) framed with candles, various lamps and draped houseplants. She played a recital to the two of us (plus one other audience member on a laptop) which included such classic hits as Greensleeves and Amazing Grace. *chef’s kiss*
Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol
This was one of the most artistically interesting things I watched all year.
Tim Spooner and Rhiannon Armstrong
The Microscope Sessions
Forest Fringe TV, online
I set up a projector in my bedroom and watched this and the next performance by Jo Bannon on the same evening. It was a warm evening, and I enjoyed feeling connected with friends I hadn’t seen in awhile, and both this work and Jo’s below were big and small at the same time, gentle and harsh at the same time.
photo by Manuel Vason
Frauke Requardt and Daniel Oliver
Dadderrs The Lockdown Telly Show
The Place online
I had as brilliant of a time watching the Telly Show as I did the in person version at the beginning of the year. It’s so weird and it’s a highlight.
A Virgem Doida
São Luiz Teatro Municipal, Lisbon
I took myself to see this after I had been in Lisbon for a week (I was there for a long period of work). It was a monologue in Portuguese. My Portuguese is… patchy. I couldn’t understand what was being said, but it gave me lots of space to think and be in a theatre with people (masked and distanced) for the first time since March. Monica Calle is a riveting performer—this was part of series of re-performances of some of her earlier solo work, Este é o Meu Corpo (in English, This is My Body). In trying to learn Portuguese I have since translated for myself the interview with her that was in the programme.
Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas
I watched this on my laptop while making and eating dinner in the flat I was staying in in Lisbon and found myself suddenly with tears in my eyes during a part where they are (I think) skipping in a circle and narrating further and further into a possible future.
Last Gasp WFH
La MaMa online
I loved watching this because it’s Split Britches and the piece’s sensitive yet matter-of-fact style of reflection came at the perfect time. Also it felt nice to know that lots of people I know will have watched it and that made me feel connected. It’s still available to watch through 21 January 2021.