I wanted to keep a diary of the online streams/recordings of shows that I’m watching at home, because, well, what else is there to do at the moment? I’m grateful that the Great Deluge of Streams has meant we’re able to see lots of international work. I find watching work from other countries is especially helpful for keeping my senses sharp and my gaze wide, especially while I’m not thinking so directly about making or working on a particular project – I guess because performance is (…was) local and time-based, it’s easy to get siloed in a particular way of thinking and imagining based on what’s available to you. I’ve been watching a lot of dance – I’ve been so drawn to it lately, and I’m finding it so much more pleasurable than theatre, by and large. I’ll update this list as we go on. Keep well. x
Edit (20th May): have just reorganised this so most recent entries are at the top. Was getting to be a lot of scrolling.
Igor x Moreno
I saw this in London last year and liked it then, but found it even more impressive on rewatching. Very minimalist and exact. There’s a really significant dramaturgical shift halfway through where, instead of following the forward-moving flow of Margherita Elliot’s dancing, the journey becomes one of staggered steps, where a change in sound or lighting is a jolt followed by the plateau of repeating patterns. The technical design (Martha on DJ decks and Seth Rook Williams on lights) takes over as the main performer in the second half, and the watching experience feels so totally different to the first. I also love love LOVE the costume by designer duo KASPERSOPHIE. They did the shapeless hoodies worn by the audience and performers alike in Robert Clark’s Mass and the pink suits and translucent sky-blue jumpers in Igor and Moreno’s previous shows A Room for All Our Tomorrows and Andante. Their costumes always strike this brilliant balance between familiarity and otherness.
Greg Wohead and Rachel Mars
Story #1 (2015)
Outrageous. This performance makes me want to be freer and more reckless with the choices I make in my own work. I won’t say any more. I don’t know if it’ll ever be on again, but just in case it is… It’s a no-spoilers kinda show.
Story #1 was adapted for Zoom as part of Forest Fringe TV. I heart Forest Fringe.
BE at Home Festival
I covered this for Exeunt – you can read my review here.
Watch pieces from BE at Home until Sunday 24th May here: http://befestival.org/festival/
The Time Travel Piece (2012)
This 20 minute piece has a sly, playful concept (a choreographer has time travelled and tried to recreate three dances from different points in the future) that speaks to the conditions of viewership and the means of production in dance. It’s very funny. I also stumbled across Multitude, a short, energetic piece Seke made for The Place’s young company which I like very very much.
I love titles which contain puns/double meanings. The camera here is the janitor/caretaker looking after the building while it’s not in use. I like the idea that the dormant space can be looked after simply by being watched. But the piece also reaches the other way, towards the viewer, with an invitation to take care of ourselves, with the occasional positive/motivational messages read out – with some measure of irony – by an automated computer voice. It makes a good companion to an excellent piece of writing by Augusto Corrieri about empty theatres and this peculiar interrupted time we’re living in.
End Meeting For All (2020)
I’ve not been spending masses of time on Zoom, but every time I do it saps a tiny bit more HP from my life force reserves, so I can imagine that spending a whole working day in Zoom meetings feels a little like Forced Ents’ play session of delirium, drunkenness and lonely skeletons. I like the way that the bits of bracketed ‘performance’ and actual in-the-(digital)-space talking about/giving instructions for the piece they’re performing wrap round each other (literally sitting next to each other as tiles in the Zoom grid), so that the life/fiction membrane is very permeable. It has a very off-the-cuff, rehearsal-y feel, which I enjoyed.
Ordinary Courage (2012)
I only really discovered Theo Clinkard’s work late last year, but since then I’ve been obsessed. His Candoco commission Hot Mess blew my mind earlier this year. I think there’s a very appealing blend of classicism (maybe the wrong word) and experimentalism in his work: working from a foundation of skill and training (though stopping short of pursuing conformity and regulation), whilst exploring an increasing interest in conceptual formal gestures in works like The Elsewhen Series and Century Project that feel Live Art-adjacent. This particular piece was his first company work. The combination of Scarlatti piano pieces played live and a dark, unsettling soundscape is really striking; the piano is in complement with the softness and tenderness of the choreography, but the sound design is a very stark contrast.
Night of the Moles (2016)
GIANT MOLES! EATING WORMS! ROLLING BOULDERS! CLIMBING OVER WALLS! PLAYING THE THEREMIN! RIDING STALAGMITE SCOOTERS! MAKING MOLE BABIES!
I mean, come on. PLAYING *A THEREMIN*.
Watch here: https://vimeo.com/403771894
Chris Goode & Company
What Words (2020)
Chris’s practice over the years has involved itinerant performances of experimental poetry and texts. During lockdown he’s sharing a reading a day on Soundcloud, and there’s loads of squiggly, fizzy, scrambly, spiky, tricky and otherwise adjectivy stuff to discover. I’d recommend prefacing your listening with the blog he wrote ahead of last year’s anthology performance What is the Word at CPT, which offers some characteristic zingers (’[The] naturalist mode is to the whole unfettered territory of language as the ringtone is to the Ring Cycle’).
curated by Mary Paterson, Diana Damian Martin and Maddy Costa
Something Other Live / Chapter 9: On Circularity (2020)
In a similar vein, I loved listening along to the latest instalment of the brilliant Something Other project, which collects writing which is ‘experimental, poetic and peculiar; writing that treats language as a material and a technology’. Normally there’s a live event of readings/performances, so instead the writers have recorded their pieces and you can listen via the LADA website. Nat and I contributed a piece, Midnight Mass. It’s available until 12th May.
Listen here: https://www.thisisliveart.co.uk/events/something-other-live-on-circularity/
Something Other website: https://somethingother.blog/
These next few shows were part of GIFT Festival. It was a pretty impressive thing they did reworking the whole festival to happen online in such a short window, and I’m so glad they did. It was nice to have some of that sense of gathering around a hub that you get at a festival.
Tania El Khoury
As Far as Isolation Goes (2019)
This was a very brief one-on-one performance reflecting on the experience of refugees in the UK – a prompt to draw on one’s arm, followed by a few songs. I wished it was slightly more substantial. I sort of felt like I wasn’t given the adequate tools and time to really consider its weighty subject. Again, I don’t think the online format worked in its favour – an inevitable recurring theme in this diary.
As Far as Isolation Goes was part of GIFT Festival.
ATRESBANDES, Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas
It Don’t Worry Me (2020)
This collaboration makes so much sense. Spanish company ATRESBANDES (who made Locus Amoenus. Ugh I think about that show all the time) and Bert and Nasi both like to play games with their audience – their work has an appealing slyness about it. Here they’re navigating the tricky territory of ‘political correctness,’ which I think they do with some sophistication. I say ‘think’ because it’s one of those shows where you can sense there’s some kind of thesis underpinning everything, but it’s buried deep beneath layers of self-reflexivity, insincerity, and contradiction.
In a talk the next day, the artists talked a bit about the differences in artistic temperament between the UK and Spain, and their desire to make a piece that would work in both countries. It’s broad generalisation based on second-hand impressions, sure, but I think it’s probably fair to say that we in the UK are more nervous about broaching this sort of topic (I certainly bristled slightly when I read the copy), which I think is to do with a greater expectation that work should telegraph its moral/political positioning. In the show, they keep using the word ‘proposal’ to refer to stage action in the piece’s piss-takey meta-commentary – ‘this is a very strong proposal from Albert’ – and, as well as being a funny jibe at that kind of artist-language, I think this also speaks to a different expectation that art might provoke from an ambiguous vantage point, perhaps be intentionally antagonistic, or adopt a pretend position different to its makers’ actual political alignments. These aren’t statements, they’re just proposals, and so are afforded a kind of amorality, a license to be bolder (or more uncharitably, cavalier) with their subjects. I don’t think It Don’t Worry Me is cavalier at all, but nor is it timid; not exactly evasive, but not wholly readable either. Which is to say, if finding a middle ground between differing artistic temperaments was their aim, they probably achieved it.
Even if I’m still slightly unsure how I feel towards the piece and its outlook, it’s undeniably compelling and very very funny. It also has a really brilliant live-mixed lighting design by Ana Rovira.
It Don’t Worry Me was part of GIFT Festival.
Watch the trailer here: https://vimeo.com/393754557
Wendy Houstoun, Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion
Music for Lectures / Get Lost (2020)
Listened to this on my walk – wandering thoughts for wandering bodies. I wished I’d actually got lost, but I was walking a familiar route.
Music for Lectures / Get Lost was part of GIFT Festival.
Crack of Dawn (2018/2020)
Greg Wohead did the impossible – he made a Zoom performance that worked! Crack of Dawn is a durational version of Call It a Day, his show about a conversation he and his then-partner had with an Amish couple in 2009. The conversation loops with variation and improvisation from sunrise to sunset. It’s very much about the difficulty of communication, so Zoom was… an apt platform for it. As Forced Entertainment’s streams attest, I think durational work is just right for online space: the way it welcomes wandering attention; the loose, browsing gaze; the tiredness of the performers and the tiredness of screen glow.
Crack of Dawn was part of GIFT Festival.
RadiOh Europa (2019)
Perhaps the loveliest thing I’ve encountered so far during lockdown. Gemma and James have been collecting love songs from all over Europe, each one recorded in their motorhome-cum-recording studio. This 24-hour broadcast was so genuinely comforting, generous and beautiful. Unaccompanied voices, huge groups spilling out of the van, pop classics, folk songs, self-penned rap, rare languages. A beacon of connection and unabashed sentimentality.
RadiOh Europa was part of GIFT Festival. The 24-hour broadcast was live only, but you can listen to area-specific collections of love songs and watch video postcards on the Oh Europa site here: http://oheuropa.com/
An odd thing, this. I really liked lots of the choreography (especially the stranger, funnier stuff), but it felt quite disjointed, a sea of material without a keenly felt dramaturgical journey. I couldn’t feel what the questions or intent behind it were.
Kidd Pivot / Crystal Pite
Dark Matters (2009)
CRYSTAL PITE! Goddamn. It’s so easy to just submit to her shows. You get totally swept along, and she fills every second with such rich material. I love shows with really weird, bold structures, and this is one of those – a 30 minute first act with high theatrics, a puppet-fable and all sorts of technical whizzbangery, then an interval, and an hour-long second act which is just focussed on the dancers.
Oh, and On The Boards is now free until 31th May! It’s a fantastic resource.
Watch here (select ‘rent’ and enter code ARTATHOME20): https://www.ontheboards.tv/performances/dark-matters-kidd-pivot
Kaneza Schaal and Cornell Alston
Jack & (2018)
This performance is about re-entry to society after incarceration, and how incarceration affects one’s ability to dream and desire, to have sovereignty over one’s interior life. Cornell Alston, who plays the show’s protagonist ‘Jack’, served 33 years in the New York state prison system. What I really loved about the show (and I *really* loved it), is that it defies expectations of this kind of socially engaged work. The kinds of aesthetics of verbatim and documentary theatre are absent here, and instead we get something more colourful, fictional, zany and oblique. There are three sections: a monologue, a 50’s style sitcom (co-written by Jackie Sibblies Drury of Fairview fame), and a debutante ball that acts as a kind of ceremony for re-entry. It’s terrific – warm, strange and funny – and evidence that not only are formal experimentalism and socially engaged practice far from mutually exclusive, they’re natural bedfellows. I love what Schaal says in this interview:
‘…there’s still this kind of divide between social practice and creative practice. I believe that great storytelling requires speaking many languages, and the greatest tool of an ensemble is the culture of a group. To me, demographic diversity and formal diversity are inseparable. So, the social justice impulse in the work is an impulse towards artistic excellence.’
Watch here (rent and enter code ARTATHOME20: https://www.ontheboards.tv/performances/jack
Kaneza Schaal and Cornell Alston presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hohyIEBOkg&list=PLsVgasrCvecN0bT3M9Fl-YGGaMWcEK2XA&index=56
Susan and Darren (2006)
Quarantine are such an brilliant company. I watched the video of their beautiful, mighty show Entitled last year and it moved me to tears. I love the cool, unhurried pace of their work, the consistency and clarity of the articulation of their mission, and the dignity the work gives its performers. This show, one of their most successful and widely performed, was screened on Zoom with pre-, mid- and post-show conversations with its makers. I liked that this helped to recreate some of that sphere of attention you’d normally get in a theatre. No skipping or pausing. And to watch communally felt right for a show that is so much about hospitality and extending an invitation to its audience.
Katie Mitchell and Alice Birch
I didn’t really enjoy this, but like the Susanne Kennedy show above, I’d be inclined to give the show the benefit of the doubt and blame the medium. You’d think that because the show has such a huge filmed element it would translate pretty well on video, but actually I think you lose a lot of the active engagement of watching something like this, which is choosing where you look – the filmed product or the process? And which part of the process, the scene being being filmed or the next one being prepared? I found it difficult to follow the story, too, which put more distance between it and myself. Some nice moments (bonus points for Let’s Eat Grandma usage) but overall a v unsatisfying experience for me.
Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion
Let us stop this mad rush towards the end (2019)
This was lovely and very sweet. An endlessly repeating short song, content to just turn round and round like a mill, or a wheel, or the seasons. A dancer moving back and forth from one end of the room to the other. It made me think about naturally occurring rhythms, and the artificial speed of late capitalism.
Kidd Pivot / Crystal Pite and Jonathan Young
I saw Pite and Young’s Revisor a few weeks before lockdown, and it was one of the most astonishing things I’ve ever seen. Pite is a choreographer and Young a theatremaker, and I think their collaboration brings out the best in them both – Pite really thrives off the theatrical trappings of set and costume, and Young’s text is very choreographic, so much about rhythm and texture over content. Betroffenheit is their first piece together, a loosely autobiographical show about trauma, addiction and recovery, following a tragic event in Young’s life. It’s Big, high fidelity work. Big scale, big gestures, technically intricate and quite frankly just an amazing piece of craftsmanship. The sound design in particular is really something else. Because it’s so visual and dynamic, it works really well on video and it’s nicely filmed too, which is rare. BBC4 is also showing Revisor some time soon, so y’all better tune in for that.
Watch here (14 day free trial): https://www.marquee.tv/watch/crystalpite-betroffenheit
Rosas / Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker
The notion of ‘pure dance’ – ‘pure’ anything – invoked by the copy for this show arouses a little suspicion in me. What is ‘impure’ dance? What is ‘contaminated’ dance? I guess this term makes me worry that the work is aspiring to something that’s tied to privilege in dubious ways – the privilege not to be political, the neutrality of whiteness, etc. That it ignores its own subjectivity because it can afford to. On the other hand, the piece itself is just… so damn good. You get a pass on this one, Anne Teresa. It’s such a precise, mathematical piece, all flow and gravity and direction and alignment and lightness and effortless grace. The Steve Reich music gives the whole thing this kind of ecstatic, unrelenting momentum. *chef’s kiss*
Watch here (until April 30th): https://vimeo.com/247455341
English National Ballet / Akram Khan
Did a watch-along with friends. It was nice to watch something big and impressive. There’s a massive wall that SPINS on its horizontal axis (improbably fast), a silhouetted corps de ballet galloping like gazelles, and some heavy duty Face Acting (Jeffrey Cirio’s glower/smoulder is quite something). Still felt like it belonged to a world I totally don’t understand, but also just close enough to my own that I could genuinely enjoy it.
Watch here (14 day free trial): https://www.marquee.tv/videos/enb-giselle
The Passion of Andrea 2 (2019)
Ugh, this did so much for me. It was really theatrical, by which I mean it trafficked in make-believe. Three men in bad wigs, all called Andrea, constantly getting into fights and shooting each other with finger guns, then getting up to do it all over again (like Forced Entertainment with dancing). Loved the way it slipped between English and French, and the ‘heaven’ section which slyly morphs into a folk tale. I really couldn’t tell you if it was about anything per se, but I was happy for it just to be thing it was being, the game it was playing. Also, big falling sack things!
Watch here (until 7pm, 4th April): https://vimeo.com/400619360?fbclid=IwAR0jcRL2623NE1zATY84i18HmQsFmMtQdqEgOcdgkU2ZAwKQ_lobDWyUKsU
Grand Lady Dance House
House Music (2016)
Another one I got from Greg Wohead’s lists. It’s a duet, sort of about creative practice, the emphasis being on practice – learning by heart, accumulation of skill in the body, the discipline of attention, ritual and commitment. It collages lots of references and sampled material together, which is something I like to do in my work. Inspired by urasenke tea ceremonies, it’s kind of monastically spare and exact in its performance vocabulary, and quite short – only 40 minutes. I was really into it.
Watch here: https://vimeo.com/165399047
The Wooster Group
It’s two and half hours long and it’s mostly just Hamlet so I skimmed it, but I liked what I saw. Was quite surprised at how incredibly detailed/rapid/precise its technical design was. There must be literal thousands of cues in the show.
Watch here (until 7th April): http://thewoostergroup.org/blog/2020/03/31/hamlet-complete-production-part-1/
One Flat Thing, reproduced (2006)
INCREDIBLE. It’s 16 minutes long, just watch it.
Watch here: https://vimeo.com/41151136
A friend also directed me to this very cool site which offers different visual frames to watch the dance through, e.g. highlighting the different themes/phrases and how they’re restated, visualising the cueing system, etc. https://synchronousobjects.osu.edu/
Christopher Rüping (and Brecht)
Trommeln in der Nacht (2017)
Saw this in meatspace a couple of years ago and found it so thrilling, but it didn’t work as well for me on video – I found the stiltedness of the text (100 years old, translated in English subtitles) a bit of a barrier. My favourite moment is the opening in which the stage managers construct the set of the original 1921 production before your eyes.
Caspar Western Friedrich (2016)
Absolutely ADORED this. Philippe Quesne creates these incredible scenographic environments, puts some people in them (or giant moles in some cases) and we watch them just sort of… do stuff. This featured five cowboys in the process of building a museum for the Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich. They move foam boulders about, sing some songs, paint some walls, go slip ’n’ sliding through a wall of rain and fog. It has such a lovely, slightly melancholic note to it; a wistfulness, like a forgotten dream. I liked that it was a BIG main stage show whose dramaturgy worked solely with tone, action and image, rather than story and character.
How Can You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere? (2010)
I first came across this performance on one of Greg Wohead’s end of year blogs. It’s heartbreaking, but also slow and difficult. It’s about death, loss and transcendence – the big stuff. It starts with a long video and accompanying commentary delivered by Lemon in which he talks about his relationship with Walter Carter, a 100+ year old ex sharecropper, and Walter’s wife Edna, the movie Solaris, and the time he spent with his partner Asako before she died. After that there’s an incredible, bruising group dance, and a sequence where Okwui Okpokwasili (who some might recognise from Bronx Gothic), alone on stage, just cries and cries and cries. Haunting.
Watch here (select ‘rent’ and enter code ARTATHOME20): https://www.ontheboards.tv/performance/dance/theater/how-can-you-stay
Death is Certain (2002)
This, to me, is a perfect piece: one idea with expansive resonance, elegantly conceived and flawlessly executed. Eva Meyer-Keller methodically ‘kills’ 35 cherries; she ties a stone to one and drops it in a glass of water, skins one and salts the flesh, burns one on a pyre of matches, etc. A miniature puppet theatre, where the violence happens somewhere between the physical action and the audience’s imaginations. There’s a great essay about it by Tim Etchells.
Watch here: https://vimeo.com/99672362
Text by Tim Etchells: http://www.evamk.de/texts/in-one-sense-never-different-and-in-another-sense-never-the-same-some-thoughts-on-eva-meyer-kellers-comical-tragedy-death-is-certain
Thank You For Coming: Attendance (2014)
A wonderful dance piece (if you’ve ever seen a Young Jean Lee show, Faye Driscoll probably choreographed a dance in it). This made me happy because it’s so joyful, mercurial, impish and unruly; but also sad because the reasons it’s joyful are the things we can’t do at the moment: touch, be close, gather together. If that doesn’t sting too much for you, it’s great to watch. I could see it working so beautifully at a UK festival like Fierce or Take Me Somewhere.
Watch here (select ‘rent’ and enter code ARTATHOME20): https://www.ontheboards.tv/performances/thank-you-coming-attendance
Rehearsal video: https://vimeo.com/98104508
Drei Schwestern (2019)
Really wanted to like this, but it just didn’t work for me. The best way of describing Susanne Kennedy’s work is that it makes you feel like you’re on a rollercoaster just as it’s tipping into the fall, except it’s a GIF of a rollercoaster and you’re in the GIF and you’re just always about to fall and there’s no escape from the loop. It makes you nauseous – in a good way. But I think that has everything to do with that way that being seated in a theatre in the dark can trap you. On video that sense of stasis and unease she’s so good a creating just doesn’t have the same power, and the endless cycles of repetition just feel sludgy and annoying.
Dead Centre are so clever, aren’t they? The post show talk section in Lippy maybe feels a little too like it’s trying to prove its cleverness – that kid in the front row of the classroom stretching their arm as high as it’ll go and waving frantically – but if it feels a little neat and stagey, then the woozy, elastic middle section and the Beckett-inspired video sequence which complete the show’s structural triptych do the job of complication and making-strange. It’s beautifully designed.
Watch here (password: context): https://vimeo.com/253790281
Jonathan Burrows, Matteo Fargion and Hugo Glendinning
52 Portraits (2016)
Rewatched lots of these. They’re so gorgeous.
Watch here: http://52portraits.co.uk/
Mystery Magnet (2012)
Miet Warlop makes incredibly stylised, visual work – big mess, mechanised/animated set pieces, gaudy splashes of colour against black and white. In this video, they’re performing Mystery Magnet in an open museum/gallery space so you get to see what’s going on ‘backstage’ too, which is a lot of fun.
Watch here: https://vimeo.com/241535361
100% Philadelphia (2014)
A lovely concept – a hundred performers from the city the work is being presented in are selected to match the percentages of that city’s census data (i.e. 49 performers must be male, 3 must be Asian/Asian-American, 10 must live alone). The point is to put faces and personalities to numbers, but as its series of polling exercises wore on, the initial ticklishness of its proposition dried out for me (and it goes on for a looong time). My favourite section was the first half hour in which each person simply introduces themselves, one by one.
Watch here: https://vimeo.com/112179595
Age and Beauty Part 1: Mid-Career Artist/Suicide Note or &:-/ (2014)
I’m obsessed with Miguel Gutierrez. Since discovering a few months back that his whole back catalogue is on Vimeo, I’ve been slowly working my way through it, and reading and listening around it. I think the word to describe his work is energetic (which isn’t to say it’s always fast). Maybe a better word is excessive – always following an impulse to overflow, or exceed its own limits. A lot of it is very emotional – not necessarily in the sense that it draws emotion from the viewer (it’s not engineered to jerk tears), but that the work itself has an inherent emotional quality. If that makes any sense. I guess what I mean is that a lot of dance in the postmodern lineage can tend towards formal coolness, but Gutierrez is all about heat. And queerness – aesthetically, sexually, politically. I find a lot of the work quite difficult, actually, but I always find something about it compelling. Him, probably; he almost always performs in his pieces and he’s a very charismatic guy. Maybe the fact that I’m finding it difficult to find the right words to describe it is testament enough to the work’s quality.
Anyway, this particular piece is the first in a trilogy he made about ageing and mortality, art-making and sustaining a career. It’s great.