If in doubt, go see a show.

Last week I rode the country backwards, all the way from Leeds to Bristol, to give a little talk to some undergrads at my alma mater, the Department of Drama: Theatre Film and Television at the University of Bristol. Despite the whopping £195 train fare, when one of my all-time favourite academics, Dr Angela Piccini, asked me at the last minute if I could come and tell some anxious final year students about the woes and wonders of doing/being a postgraduate and freelance artist, I swooned. There were some outstanding Bristol graduates on the discussion panel, including Jeremy Routledge from Calling the Shots, and producers from Battersea Arts Centre and Punchdrunk. And then there was I, with my pointy eyes and expandable words and generous gestures. They said internships and career and opportunity. I said loyalty and commitment and stamina. Hopefully some of the new faces now know that there are plenty of different ways to cut some furrows into your brow.

But for now, let’s make like the cast of Facehunters and set our sights on love, loss and the beauty of youth. This new ‘musical for the Vice generation’ from the brazen Leeds’ troupe, Hungry Bitches, sparked with orgiastic music, spandex pinging choreography and incendiary direction. Based very loosely on the principles behind Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray, the Hungry Bitches wove a hipster saga from the ashes of a smouldering Dalston and our tragic fascination with eternal youth. Two words popped into my mind over and over again whilst I watched the opening night performance at Stage@Leeds: Commercial Potential. Yo, West End, you have been buzzed.

And all of that came after a mad hour at the third instalment of the Henry Moore Institute’s performance art series, This is Performance Art. Entitled ‘The Conceptual Burlesque of Nice Style: the World’s First Pose Band’, the artist Mel Brimfield delivered a performance lecture via her long-time collaborator, the fake art critic, Sir Frances Spalding. So many layers of crisp unreality obscured my already battered sense of reason that I thought I’d gone to heaven or gone bat-shit crazy. I don’t want to give too much away, expect to say that the whole event was a bit like going up into your granddad’s attic to find a small and useful artefact of your recent past and instead coming down the ladder with an armful of stolen trinkets and questionable literatures. GO SEE ANYTHING BY MEL BRIMFIELD. But especially this.

Thanks to the generosity of Slung Low, I then spent a full weekend at the Holbeck Underground Ballroom with my band, and am currently getting my gear together to take One Day : Day One to Stockholm for the Supermarket 2012 and also perform the next edition of my Tuull series, called God Gave Rock and Roll…, at Indivisible’s 24-hour event, (in)xclusion, at Patrick Studios on 25-26th February.

Phew. January, you did for me what I’ll do for the rest of the year: kept it busy, kept it bright, kept it bringing it.


Itch fight – you’ve got to have Residence…

This week just gone (gone, fshwumm, vanished), I was well excited about a performance scratch night that my good friend and constant-future cohort Jenny Duffy was hosting at Leeds Met. The event is part of a series of fund/profile raising performastunts for the inaugural Lift Off Festival, a degree show project that Jenny is managing as a part of her enviably hip bespoke Live Art degree.

Since moving to Leeds in September, I’ve seen the BA Art, Event, Performance gang (or AEPers as they call themselves – I also call them that, but have no right to) regularly participate in, collaborate on and produce work that tips the cutting edge of the region’s spectrum. Whilst I was too hungover to blog about their Holus Bolus Art’s Birthday Party in January, and dazzled with educo-jealousy by their undergraduate conference in March, I still feel like I haven’t really seen the best of what the AEPers can do.

And after Wednesday, well, let’s just say I’ve seen that a very few of the AEPers can do some good. This is a blog post, and not a press release, but I’m not really into hating. Also, a scratch night is supposed to  a supportive forum to experiment, not the rotten tomato splattered stocks.

So, to start with the GOOD: Indivisible‘s ‘Third’, a stark and provocative, laid back and trussed up, stabby and desperate piece that sprang comfortably around the Live Art playground. The gentle, hulking form of Adam Young dragged a diminutive and rope-bound Becki Griffith‘s across the floor to the corner of the stage, leaving her to lure the audience with nothing but a piece of paper and a fiver from her pocket.

Indivisibles Becki Griffiths being dragged across the floor by performance partner, Adam Young.

After twenty minutes of watching her struggle, fall and be hoisted back into place by Adam, eventually Becki’s perverse and increasingly frantic hand gesturing dislodged one of the less sadist audience members from their seat, and she was relieved of her props – satisfied in her task, but still bound to her position. I liked that, it meant something.

Ryan Kitto’s one-on-one performance, ‘Contact’ was, as I told the usher waiting outside, probably one of the most erotic things that has happened to me for the last two years.

Semi-pro boxer Ryan emerged in pants and mask from behind the black curtains of the mustily fragrant intimate space, knelt before my seated, trembling self and proceeded to paint patterns on my face with paint-brushes dipped in water. Ryan’s bloodshot eyes seared with vulnerability, I could smell his taut determination to move me through is delicate brushstrokes. Er, swoon.

I barely had time to gather my skirts before Carrieanne Cara Vivianette’s ‘Frequented Tune’ began in the theatre. Evidently a skilled performer and storyteller, Carrieanne rushed the audience through a pacey and abstracted retelling a Native American myth, splashing a bowl of red and blue paint around with agility and precision…

O no! I’ve run out of space to mention any of the stuff I didn’t like about the evening. O well, maybe next time. Actually, I’m hoping next time that more people show up (especially people from the actual course that the fundraiser was in aid of, tut tut, bad AEPers), more of the performers have the respect to inform the organizer’s if their piece has changed at the last minute, and that every piece reeks with artistic merit (rather than sweaty, uncharismatic mundanity). Itchy fingers crossed.

In other news, I want to set the sort of thing up that Residence is doing in Bristol in my basement in Woodhouse next year.

You have been warned.