London Performance Now: Milly Miller-Adams on Performance Live: Kae Tempest

Performance Live – Kae Tempest | BBC Two

Having previously read Let Them Eat Chaos by Kae Tempest before watching this performance I arrived already appreciating their skill and talent. However watching them perform this live in front of a receptive audience with music to accompany gave new life to these words. Kae explores many contemporary issues in this 60 minute set through a continuous spoken word poem which weaves the lives of 6 strangers living on the same street.

Kae’s passion is tangible. They observe the world so astutely and are able to convey the feelings, worries and routine that we have become too used to living through. It would be an honour to watch Kae perform live however this filmed performance did well to capture the electricity they produced in the room.

Some excerpts below:

“The people are dead in their lifetimes
Dazed in the shine of the streets
But look how the traffic’s still moving
System’s too slick to stop working
Business is good, and there’s bands every night in the pubs
And there’s two for one drinks in the clubs
And we scrubbed up well
Washed off the work and the stress
And now all we want’s some excess
Better yet, a night to remember that we’ll soon forget
All of the blood that was bled for these cities to grow
All of the bodies that fell
The roots that were dug from the earth
So these games could be played
I see it tonight in the stains on my hands

[…]

In glamourous magazines, who’s dating who?
Politico cash in an envelope
Caught sniffing lines off a prostitutes prosthetic tits
Now it’s back to the House of Lords with slapped wrists
They abduct kids who fuck the heads of dead pigs
But him in a hoodie with a couple of spliffs
Jail him, he’s the criminal”[1]


[1] Kae Tempest, Europe is Lost, Let Them Eat Chaos

This post is part of London Performance Now Series. Read more about the series here

London Performance Now: Maya Ostrowska on A Small Gathering

A Small Gathering | Home (Manchester)

Image: Manchester Home, A Small Gathering

A Small Gathering, created by Charli Dubery, Deborah Pugh, George Mann, Nir Paldi & Sam Halmarack, is described as ‘A triptych of shorts served 2m apart’.

The character we meet in the first short is Mr Pink, whose performance is nothing short of utterly bizarre. Illumined by dramatic lighting, he makes peculiarly comical facial expressions and gestures. After a sequence of shaving and applying lipstick, he attempts to go outside but due to COVID, he cannot. His nemesis (one more threatening than a global pandemic,apparently) is a small cupboard, which threatens him throughout an obscene dance he performs on his sofa. It reflects the madness that comes as a side effect of quarantine. It’s worth watching just for its humorous aspect alone.

The second short, titled Rewilding was undoubtedly inspired by the nation’s, and in-fact the world’s, phase of hoarding toilet paper and panic buying. A woman trying to muster up the courage to leave her canal boat to go food shopping. Humour is also at the forefront of this short, at one point she tapes up her window excessively, adding various ´keep away´ notes,finally settling on ‘just fuck off’. She also battles a toilet paper monster so there’s that.
Cynthia’s party is the last of the three shorts and definitely wins the prize for being the creepiest of the three. If you don’t like porcelain dolls with missing eyeballs you might want to skip this one. It depicts a quarantine tea party where only one of the guests is human. That doesn’t last for long, as we see a horrifying, though well edited sequence of a woman slowly turning into a doll. What a fun tea party.

These shorts are highly entertaining and a vividly portrayal of descending into madness – a state I think we can all relate to in some capacity, due to the times we are currently living in.

This post is part of London Performance Now Series. Read more about the series here

London Performance Now: Lucinda Saufley on Amaluna

Cirque du Soleil: Spotlight on “Amaluna”
Thoughts on the Recording
Blogpost by Lucinda Saufley

Anyone who has had the pleasure of seeing Cirque du Soleil live can agree that it is nothing short of a spectacle. Cirque’s initiative to bring some of its one-of-a-kind performances to YouTube in a series of “spotlights” allows audiences far and wide to experience the magic from the comfort of their own homes. However, comfort might not be on the wish list of someone wanting to see Cirque perform. This spotlight on Amaluna is filled with death-defying circus tricks, live music, and breathtaking choreography. However, it’s just not the same – it’s hard to be brought to the edge of your seat when you’re sitting on a couch.

Some aspects of the show are augmented by the recording: the camera captures details like lighting effects and artful makeup you might not fully appreciate from the pit. The recording also enables you to better tune into the original soundtrack, which might fall second to the visuals if you were at the live show. Despite these positives, there are far more drawbacks in my opinion. For one, the energy and urgency intrinsic of a show like Amaluna are lost. Watching a human bend into impossible shapes while balancing on a tiny pole is still impressive, but the adrenaline isn’t pumping as it might if that human was right in front of you. When watching a recording, you know the aerialist won’t plummet from the rafters. You know the juggler’s balls of flame won’t end in fiery tragedy. Additionally, some of the magic is lost when the many camera angles reveal aspects of the set that audience members aren’t meant to be privy to. In one acrobatic number, a platform that appears impossibly narrow from the front is revealed to be comfortably wide – and other such little let-downs. It’s a bit like ripping the trench coat off a giant and finding it was really two people stacked upon one another all along.

This post is part of London Performance Now Series. Read more about the series here

London Performance Now: Emma Semani on One Hand Tied Behind Us at Old Vic

One Hand Tied Behind Us | The Old Vic

The Old Vic is hosting a four-part series of monologues in recognition of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, curated by actor Maxine Peake and directed by Annabel Bolton. Under the umbrella title One Hand Tied Behind Us, the series began on Monday 1 March with Betsy by Ella Hickson, performed by Jill Halfpenny. On Tuesday 2 March, Contactless by Maxine Peake, performed by Siobhan McSweeney premiered, followed by Imagine That by Kit de Waal, performed by Flo Wilson on Wednesday 3 March and finally Mother’s Little Helper 1963 by Jeanette Winterson, performed by Celia Imrie on Thursday 4 March.

A comedic quality came with the honesty of self-reflection and admission of the failures in a relationship during lockdown. The self-empowering monologue by Susan Wokoma highlights prevalent issues of gaslighting from a partner in an intense period of claustrophobia and forced closeness. “It’s not like he hits me” is a summary of the excuse’s women give to defend their maltreatment, with the form of gratitude often imprisoning us to an alternative of escape. She is punished questioning her situation, blamed as a product of her family who must have ‘planted’ the seeds of doubt within her. The three-part monologue, told intimate and charismatic at a dressing table surrounded by products of femininity on International Women’s Day, marks the stages of a toxic relationship, revealing her loss of self as she gives her womanhood to a man. She is seen applying makeup, getting ready whilst telling herself ‘I’m hard to love’. Her own insecurities are echoed by the voices of society, with the doctor naming her to be a cause of her husband’s depression, to which she masks with a chuckle of backhanded approval ‘I’d love to fuck off and let him be happy”. Her own voice is echoed by the lies told to her that make feel inadequate, and the audience are left to question how much of their own voice, their personal internal narrative, is truly theirs.

This post is part of London Performance Now Series. Read more about the series here

London Performance Now: Emma Howes on The Coronavirus Time Capsule, Company 3

The Coronavirus Time Capsule | Company 3

Amidst the angst, anxiety and abrupt drought of motivation provided by the summer that we will, unfortunately, never forget, a new group of voices emerged to share their side of the story. The Coronavirus Time Capsule has given an outlet and voice to those who were most impacted by the pandemic,  – young people! Company 3’s pandemic project is a compilation of weekly work created by teenagers around the world, giving insight into their new lives as everything they know moves inside and online.

The project is led in collaboration with multiple youth theatre and community groups, meaning there are varying levels of performance from video to video; yet a sense of optimism, creativity and eagerness to express is apparent throughout. Comprised of skits, stop-motion animations, baking tutorials, dances and unfiltered opinions, the videos resemble those of early YouTube – there is no need to perform for the audience, and though aspects of popular youth culture and vloggers have definitely influenced these creators, it is simply innocent creativity and expression.

Beyond highlighting we are living in future history, and these creators having some great footage to show their grandchildren, the Time Capsule emulates a true glimpse of hope for the future, both near and far. Young people are often told to get outside and make the most of their youth, for that freedom is short lived, yet here is proof that they are still able to make the most of their young, creative spirits whilst unable to truly live their lives. If they can pull together good spirits through this, then there’s hope for the rest of us still.

This post is part of London Performance Now Series. Read more about the series here

London Performance Now Blog Series – Introduction from Dr Catriona Fallow

London is one of Europe’s most exciting theatrical cities, with a variety of live performances on offer at any given time. In 2020-21, the challenges to the theatre and performance industry have been widespread.

Despite these difficulties, a range of innovative and exciting work continues to be made while the industry prepares to make potentially difficult, challenging, and exciting changes that may well affect the theatre and performance ecology in London – and beyond – for years to come. 

To take advantage of this moment in London’s performance history, this semester students on London Performance Now have been exploring a range of performances and different performance modes to examine how we read and analyse performance events both live and online. As part of this, we’ve been developing strategies for reading performance in ways that recognise the importance of how and where these performances take place, who they are for and how it relates to the times we are living in.

These short blog posts were developed in response to shows that the authors chose to view and provide a snapshot into different kinds of work that’s available online. From circus to poetry, monologues, applied performance and online festivals, there’s still a great range of work out there to watch and enjoy!

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