ONE

Bertrand Lasca and Nasi Voutsas

HOME

Two men. A very tall ladder. A conundrum. This is of course the return of Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas as they return to HOME with ONE, the final part of a trilogy that includes the brilliant EUROHOUSE and PALMYRA. Polarisation, provocation and dogged resolve are continuing themes, played out with their particular brand of disturbingly dark clowning and winsome charm as they invite collusion from the audience. We have choices. It’s clear. We can literally throw shit at each other, remain paralyzed in time or we can take a leap of faith together and hope in a better future.

As with their previous work Bert and Nasi use elements of what maybe their own personal relationships with each other to make provocative statements about contemporary politics. A Frenchman and a Greek who met in Scotland their work is especially resonant in our world of Brexian madness. With Nasi up a very high ladder and Bert at the bottom pleading, cajoling and finally becoming threatening, I’m starting to feel worried and rightly so. I’m worried about Nasi and Bert. I’m worried about relationships in general. I’m worried about the Northern Ireland border. I’m worried about Brexit. I’m worried about world peace… Nasi is still up the ladder. Bert is playing Imagine by John Lennon. Bert is imploring the audience for assistance.

Finally they sit at either end of a table. They could be a couple trying to resolve their differences at the kitchen table or they may be politicians in a boardroom either way there is both a reluctance to engage or to walk away.The push-pull of a relationship at breaking point is being played out and the ramifications of what will happen if one of them leaves or stays brutally apparent. Bert’s message is clear – I can leave but if I do I won’t be silenced I will be a thorn In your side. I will not just disappear.

Lesca and Voutsas are masters of their art. Their sense of comic timing, pathos and charm are reminiscent of another age – and double acts like Laurel and Hardy, yet their work is sharply focused on modern issues. With a skillful use of simply staying in a moment of stillness to create a protracted discomfort or ramp up tension, they create complex productions with the apparence of absolute simplicity.

Their childlike bickering has the sinister undertones of politicians shouting each other down in parliament. As they invite the audience to collude as in previous shows we can choose to encourage an act of destruction, stay in a cycle off unremitting paralysis or take a leap of Faith and engage in the possibility of a better future. It would of course seem like a no-brainer but three show in for them and no sign of a Brexit solution for us, then like Nasi and Bert I’m still hopeful but I’m getting tired too.

HOME Wed 8th – Fri 10th May 2019

Bert and Nasi

Everything that happened and would happen

Mayfield

A new work by Heiner Goebbels

Produced by Artangel

Co-presented by Artangel and MIF

The world première of Everything that happened and would happen opens with a huge set comprised of veiled exhibition pieces. Goebbels’ opener is an allusion to the Great Exposition of 1900, which the organisers said “will define the philosophy and express the synthesis of the 19th century”. This new work is inspired by Patrik Ouředník’s Europeana or A Brief History of The Twentieth Century, the epic Europeas 1&2 by John Cage and by daily updates from No Comment footage from Euronews. Blending performance, concert, installation and history lesson with stunning visual effects, this is truly a polyphony that brings European influence unto a British stage where so many of us hope it remains regardless of what Brexit may bring.

Devised especially for Mayfield, which opened 4 years before the start of WWI, this production reflects major events in Europe throughout the last 100 years. With five musicians side of stage and 12 performers in constant movement as they configure new scenes, the overall feeling is incredibly powerful and mesmerising. This is like watching a crash course in set building and design. Performers are clad in black boiler suits and brightly coloured socks which may be a witty illusion to individuality and perhaps an acknowledgement of the range of ethnicities in Europe today. Watching the performers assemble and disassemble art installations,folding and unfolding fabric screens like huge maps, pushing and pulling landmasses, it is graceful and reflective. It is also clearly performed with the military precision of soldiers on a battlefield.

The set pieces are often visually startling such as the projections which evoke the digital age, displacing and distorting as the world shifts. In a recurring theme nothing is as it seems, as the age blistered pillars of Mayfield fleetingly become shiny steel, or familiar shapes distort and evolve into something else. The Chinese Dragon in the final scenes bleeds into a landscape that is a haunting evocation of Europe, past and present. Illuminated laundry baskets whirl around the stage with seemingly magical contents but in the end are casually popped, being nothing more than bubble wrap. Gas lit scenes have hazy trees hung from an impressive rigging system that evoke a ravaged forest and the No Mans Land of WW1. Later the same rigging is utilised to project news images from Euronews showing current scenes of protests such as those against Kavanaugh in America.

This is a powerful and provocative piece of work. It questions the ownership of ideas, culture and land. The push/pull of shifting land borders and the building up and tearing down of countries and their infrastructures is clearly evident throughout the work, which also suggests the pertinent question of do we continue to repeat the patterns and mistakes of our past? As Brexit becomes closer to being realised it is surely a question we need to heed and act on. Are we destined to keep learning the same lesson but choose to believe it means something else?

Mayfield 10 – 21 October

Production images by Thannasis Deligiannis

Cotton Panic!

Upper Campfield Market

Created by Jane Horrocks Nick Vivian and Wrangler

The old Victorian market space works perfectly as a space for a gig or for an immersive theatre piece. Giant screens either side of the stage project ephemeral images interspersed with close ups of actress and activist Glenda Jackson and other storytellers. On stage is the tiny and feisty Jane Horrocks fizzing with passion and energy. Behind her is a translucent screen projecting  more images and seemingly super-imposed behind that is the band Wrangler  and their analogue synthesizers.

A mix of folk music and clog dancing blend into tracks such as Billie Holidays “Strange Fruit” and Grace Jones “Slave to the Rhythm” with synth music and story telling of the poverty and political struggle weave together to celebrate our working class heritage in the North West.

Walking through the space feels exciting and quite special. The sense of urgency and energy is intoxicating and moving sporadically from the back of the space I soon find myself front of stage. Watching Horrocks’s character descend into wretched poverty and dependency on the kindness of others is a sharp reminder of the problems inherent in misinformed aid assistance. How often do we make assumptions about the needs of others? When we buy a homeless stranger a sandwich do we check first if they are vegetarian or gluten-intolerant or do we simply expect their gratitude? If we give money for aid do we want to meet a specific need or one which we feel is appropriate? 

This is the story of the cotton industry in Lancashire from riches to rags in the industrial carnage that arose from the American Civil War (1861-1865). It is a timely reminder of how any growing economy is intensely vulnerable to over dependency on a single commodity. The lack of cotton arriving in the 1870s crippled Lancashire and created mass unemployment and poverty. It would be good to think we have learned valuable lessons from our social and economic history yet sadly we continue to waste valuable resources and make poor electoral decisions such as Brexit.

Emerging from this performance into the evening sunshine on Deansgate many of the crowd dispersed to nearby bars and restaurants. A lovely way to end a sociable evening. Perhaps the sobering thought being in a coffee or wine shortage how quickly would we be inconvenienced or potentially economically ruined?

Lancashire Cotton Failure

Manchester austerity and homelessness 

Ethics and Aid
Potential impact on Manchester of Brexit