Emma Geliot's picture

good cop bad cop, Experimentica 2013, chainsaw Img EG


Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff 06 11 November 2013



CCQ continues to probe the cutting edge of performance practice as we dart between events at this year s Experimentica.



DAY 4 (09/11): Following on from Heike Roms and Mike Pearson's tour of Cardiff's performance past, good cop bad cop (former collaborators of Pearson's) unleashed mayhem in the theatre.



It started reasonably gently, with John Rowley reading all the parts in the infamous Bill Grundy interview with the Sex Pistols (the one that finished Grundy's career), with UV lights standing in for the Pistols and a band of willing volunteers as their fans.



good cop bad cop, Experimentica, Sex Pistols img EG



But then the lights went on behind the sofa to reveal a Welsh dresser and the insistent buzzing noise of a chainsaw as Richard Huw Morgan sliced the dresser to its tiny component parts, while images of good cop bad cop's past performances (no caps please) flashed overhead. Smoke quickly filled the theatre and a band (masked by the fog) struck up at full throttle.



The fire doors to the theatre were flung open, some befuddled audience members reeled out into the night, but some of us reversed back in to listen to the band, finally noticing Morgan lamenting into a microphone, crumpling slowly to the ground. . Fast, furious and very loud (precautionary ear defenders had been issued) and packed with an enthusiastic crowd, it was over too soon (20 minutes of madness). Wylaf wers, tawaf wedy as described by good cop bad cop:



Perhaps there is a Welsh Dresser? There might be a flash frame projection It might be a shredding /shredding of history It might remind one of Exx-1 It is noisy and brutal, It is happening here, now, under your nose, It is not an object of desire, It swims in the overflowing bloody water of the hand-basin blocked with soggy tissue. One man cries This has something to do with piano smashing as a school fete attraction, popular entertainment, philistinism, 'nice' art, pure rage, people freezing harps in blocks of ice, the death of Newport, some or none of the above, ...and possibly the non-performance of Napalm Death at the Victoria and Albert Museum.



You can watch the performance here, filmed by Culture Colony



An hour or so for our ears to stop ringing and then into the cinema for a screening of The Colour of Saying, a new collaboration between artist Anthony Shapland and musician Richard James and part of the beginnings of ayear-long celebration of the centenary of the birth of Dylan Thomas



Shapland and James met for the first time as they prepared to set out for a four-day tour of the Wales that Thomas had inhabited. They wanted to make a response, rather than an illustration or a narrative, and Shapland's film mimics the day-to-night of Under Milk Wood, with images that almost force poetry into the mind as they appear. It's easy for shots of the Welsh seaside to look like a promo for Visit Wales, but the details and the pacing set this apart.



It's difficult to say how this fits into the wider thrust of Experimentica, entertaining as it is, because it can easily play to other audiences where much of the programme is so niche its positively recessed. But there certainly was an open brief and a collaboration across art forms (Shapland usually controls the sound as well as the vision), so something is being tested here (and what we saw isn't apparently the final edit).The Q&A led by Hannah Ellis, granddaughter of Dylan Thomas, gave us an opportunity to glimpse into the collaborative process, where so much is negotiated and discussed, and to see how the film had evolved from a loose idea to a concrete entity.



DAY 3 (08/11): And on the third day CCQ rested, or rather went to West Wales for more far flung reviewing.



DAY 2 (07/11):



If the first day was all about sound and vision, the second was about disguise and performance persona.



Roy Brown, Experimentica 2103, Img EG



Roy Brown went off piste to the Castle Arcade and National Theatre Wales offices. Usually his performances occur un-mediated in public spaces, allowing people to encounter them by chance, so this was a new departure. Sitting on a sofa usually reserved for anxious performers waiting to be auditioned, an actress sits, flicking though celebrity gossip magazines and making drawings that, in theory, are the result of merging the tittle-tattle with the psycho-geography and folklore of Cardiff. But her face is fitted with a bespoke wig, hiding her features and her thoughts. From time to time she rises, comes to the window and faces out through the glass she may be staring but we ll never know. A beautiful moment, when ten students, fresh from a day s training as beauticians, walk past, do a double-take, come back, giggle and then one brave soul enters the space and does a finger wagging, hip wiggling gesture of defiance.What is this? , they ask,What s that on her face? . Brown explains (he s keeping a watchful eye on proceedings for the four hours) and I explain about Experimentica and then about Chapter, before I remember I m just here to record and respond, not to intervene. Back they go for their facials and I wander off, wondering if this has delivered against its promise, proved or disproved its thesis, or if something else has happened.



Cian Donnelly, Strawberry Necklace, Experimentica 13, EG 2



Hellish traffic makes me miss Off The Page again, so it s straight to the Stiwdio for Cian Donnelly sStrawberry Necklace. Donnelly s stage is set a filmic backdrop, which I took for a still until a pigeon surprised me by flying across the screen. Donnelly appears, wearing an outfit that defies comparison, it s edges ragged, undefined, his face masked with an exaggerated nose. He talks, using an accent that is somewhere between Pik Botha and Benny from Crossroads (Donnelly is in fact Irish). His words are narrative threads, but woven from what seems to be an infinite number of stories. The effect is interesting like sitting on a switchback but in a state of extreme relaxation as the tone and pace are reassuring while we jump from one thread to the next and he interacts with his props, sings and dances as much to the little crude figure on the right as the flower/head/phallus on the left. We chuckle and smile (my face took twenty minutes to re-compose itself afterwards as I realised that I d been smiling throughout). There s much more to say about this, but that will have to wait.



A pause before Tim Bromage in the theatre with a performance based extremely loosely on Conan Doyle s The Hound of The Baskervilles.



Tim Bromage, Experimentica 2013, Img Warren Orchard



A table, covered with a white cloth set with a tray, a wine glass with a plastic fork inverted in it and more besides. On the floor a bundle of hessian sacking covering a human form. Bromage appears. He is dapper, that s the word that springs to mind, as we take in the neat three piece suit and smart shoes, and he dances to stage front in the way that Fred Astaire might pop to the corner shop for a newspaper. Oh but his face too is invisible covered with a foam cloud, like pink popcorn writ large.



But as he gets to the front he lifts it up, saysHello in a friendly tone and explains his relationship with The Hound of the Baskervilles, his inability to be cast as either Holmes or Watson in the school production and how he had to make his mother proud by playing the hound. What follows is the most remarkable pared down, poetic narrative text melancholic, atmospheric with a hint of darker things.



The hessian mound is almost forgotten when it begins to move, only slightly, not enough for a reveal of the form below, and then it emits smoke.



There is a hint of Bromage s trademark magic at the end, the final flourish and it is over. Perfect length, edited back to a really pure text, beautifully delivered and paced. A great punch line to another interesting day. Emma Geliot Image of Tim Bromage by Warren Orchard, courtesy of Chapter.



DAY One (06/11):



Richard Bowers, Tricolour - The Passion of joan of Arc, Experimentica 2013



First up is Richard Bowers, who inverted the idea of silent cinema by presenting film with no images. Taking Carl Dreyer s script of The Passion of Joan of Arc, and an original soundtrack created by Bowers, he committed himself to an impressive nine hour performance in Chapter s Stiwdio. Sitting behind a screen Bowers transcribed the script that was then projected on to the floor, the words glowing and then fading back to replaced with others over time.


Richard Bowers, Tricolour - The Passion of Joan of Arc, Experimentica 2013, text detail  


It was a haunting and memorable performance that had its own rhythms and moods, established by the shifts in the soundtrack with audiences drifting in and hooked by the silhouetted figure and the ghostly text, lulled or stirred by the sounds that filled the space.



Later on in the theatre space, From Now On gave us another take on film and music with Jersualem in My Heart



The space was hung with ghostly sheets, against which played a staggering array of film loops in dizzying sequences that ebbed and flowed with intensity as the music swooped and fell. A combination of tradition folk mashed up with techno, which, together with the flickering images, created a juddering narrative of impressions.



From Now On - Jerusalem in My Heart, Experiementica 2013












From Now On - Jerusalem in My Heart, Experimentica 2013
























Experimentica continues until Sunday 11 November at Chapter Arts Centre (see preview for more information and links)