A great night popping my Chinwag cherry at Chapter, thanks to all involved!
Christopher Brett Bailey is a phenomenon. I had issues with the production, which I will come to later, but none at all with the performance. Words like "mesmerizing" and "captivating" are devalued currency in theatre reviews, but sorry, drive; I ain't got nothing smaller. Bailey's variations of pace and power and his precise control of the margins made for something truly special. The content - much of it strong - is in truth secondary to the delivery for much of the piece. One moment he's enunciating clear, graphic imagery that lingers in the mind; the next, hopping from one half-formed thought to the next through torrents of concatenated bon-mots, with no apparent destination but the journey itself. And it's great fun to hear, either way. Part performance poetry, part storytelling, and part stand-up, it's all killer and no filler.
As we say in this Buzzfeed age; what happens next will blow your mind!
Had the piece ended when Bailey walked out of the light, my applause would have been heartfelt and rapturous. As it was, ten minutes or so later I was applauding out of politeness and relief. Music begins, soft at first but seemingly stuck in a loop, echoing Bailey's frequent use of repetition and pregnant pause to create tension, perhaps challenging us to decide for ourselves when the show is over? But the sound builds and builds, into what eventually becomes a pure physical assault on the audience. Deliberately excessive volume and controlled feedback noise wash over us in the darkness. There is no warning of this, and while I found it merely uncomfortable, several other audience members were in clear distress. To me, tricks like this are the worst kind of artistic conceit. There is a fine line between challenging an audience and insulting them. I felt that line had been crossed. A great shame, not least because I've now written a negative paragraph about the final 10 minutes larger than the positive one about the first hour.
So, back to that first hour, then. Quite, quite brilliant. Dense and exhausting, even the most rapt listener will leave plenty behind to revisit should they watch the show again. I should like to myself; but I would have no compunction about retiring to the bar when the music starts. I wish I'd known that at the start.
Indeed, I agree with the "Mesmerizing" & "Captivating" aspects Rob.
I often assess an experience on how I feel about it the next day. If it's still living in me then, It's clearly moved me.
It's now 4 days and counting & "This is How we die" is still happening to me. I might not remember most of the stories Christopher Brett Bailey expertly imparted to us, just a flicker of a swastika shaped man & a fight with a Preacher on a gas station forecourt. In fact much of what was spoken was delivered at such a frenetic pace that it was only possible to pick out keywords. But, I believe this was intentional. Bailey drew us in to this fantastic surreal world of his making & dragged us behind him in his wake, kicking & flailing. I was at times engrossed in the madness, at others, bored senseless by the gibberish & finally excited & terrified by the sonic onslaught. To leave the auditorium shaking and terrified is not something I'd normally ask from a performance, but in this case it worked, brilliantly. The residue of that evening is still with me now. It may sound a little masochistic to say, but, I loved it for the sheer visceral experience. Exciting, challenging, provocational & inspiring, this is what all Art should be.