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Mr & Mrs Clark explored the creative potential of destruction at The Riverfront, Newport earlier this month. Dino Rovaretti abandons his expectations and finds beauty, humour and some new ideas.

Smash it Up is a full-length theatre show made and performed in a collaboration between Mr & Mrs Clark and Bosch. It is one of the outcomes developed from a performance-as-research project that investigates destruction as an artistic device and tool. Smash it up is a phrase that, by the end of the show, will run riot inside your head; travelling from one ear to the other, passing behind your eyes and opening them up to something unexpected. It is a mantra, a song, an angry poem. The meaning of the phrase shifts as it stands in for a multitude of disembodied voices in the performance space; it is an instruction from the council, a punch line, an overheard conflict, a plea made by the people of Newport.

I stood at the studio entrance with my tap water from the bar and longed to be drawn into something beautiful, something comforting and mending; a performance that shamed destruction and lifted unity, or creation, or reconciliation, or preservation or something like that. As I entered I knew that I should abandon my expectations and whatever pre-formed notion of beauty-in-destruction I had foreseen and hoped for.

Smash it Up - Mr & Mrs Clark at The Riverfront, Newport. Image Jo Haycock Smash it Up - Mr & Mrs Clark at The Riverfront, Newport. Image Jo Haycock

The studio was set up like an odd workshop/gallery; tables of evidence exhibits and messy monuments were made (or left?) to display the wealth of research materials that, weeks before, had been gathered by the performers in Newport and Cwmbran s shopping centres. While the cast of three silently joined us in the space before working themselves into a choreography of labour, I was captivated by the projected video that set the tone for the rest of the show. A beautifully crafted information video that framed the subject of destruction in isolation; giving short lines of text that prompted questions and tactfully avoided giving any answers. Thankfully these moments of film returned throughout the show and seemed to give the working space itself some kind of voice and distance from the performers in the live moment.

Smash It Up - Mr and Mrs Clark, The Riverfront. Image Jo Haycock Smash It Up - Mr and Mrs Clark, The Riverfront. Image Jo Haycock

The set was cleared with all the authority and seriousness that short-sleeved shirts and ties confer, then the SIU [Smash It Up] Cultural Conservationists began to share their thoughts on destruction in a way that was both jarring and theatrically fluid. The piece was smart, rich and generous to its audience. With heaps of art history to underscore moments of comedy and personal tenderness, the performers analysis of destruction (both in and as) art was as thorough as a teenage boy deleting his search history. And it is this aspect of the piece that was, for me, the most impressive. It is, in some ways, easier to make something out of nothing. You can make anything. But devising a performance from an already pre-existing project is attempting to make something out of something else. I know this is just what people do and it s how people make well-grounded work, but I want to acknowledge that it is no easy task. There is resistance because, in order for the first thing to be any good it must already be strong in its form. Mr & Mrs Clark and BOSCH managed to produce a piece that was structurally sophisticated enough to move an audience through a research narrative and a series of performance modes. This aspect of the piece is particularly loaded with potential when one considers the issue of destruction at the centre of the material and the nature of research making its way to a static performance space. Theatre makers ask: how does one hold a moment, burn an image, slip to the next, drift, flit, fall, jump or let go? It is no easy thing.

Smash it Up - Mr & Mrs Clark at The Riverfront, Newport. Image Jo Haycock Smash it Up - Mr & Mrs Clark at The Riverfront, Newport. Image Jo Haycock

An act of destruction is an act of creation and an act of creation is an act of destruction , seems to be the message that audiences have taken with them. And while I d like to agree with this sentiment that sees making as something beyond an idea of progression or creation, I feel unable to fully engage in this dialogue. The claim that suggests that nothing is erased, but ratherre-ordered , is not a claim that I felt strongly within the piece. It is a beautiful sentiment of regeneration, but it is not something that I personally received as an audience member. For me, the world that the performers created within the space is a world that they have clearly spent time in. It is a concentration of the world that we share, and an invitation to witness destruction in isolation.

Destruction here is given space to beguile and engross without beauty or rationale. It is an opportunity to stare at the falling building, the road traffic collision, the moment after impact, the impact of impact, the shift, the fire, the thing that is strangely something else.

Dino Rovaretti and Mr & Mrs Clark will be discussing research in performance at The Project Space, Newport at 7.30pm Saturday 22 November

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