Sunday, 27 January 2019

REVIEW: Propel #2 - HOME, Manchester

It's round two for Propel. This time we were in Home Theatre's magnetic main space. Once again, it was the same format as the last event. This was a showcase of new theatrical works in progress from four theatre companies. The event was curated by Javaad Alipoor, a theatre maker, director, and writer, known for his work at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre and Theatre In The Mill. Alipoor was a pleasant host for this evening's event. Again, the audience were asked to give instant feedback and their thoughts on each of the performances throughout the night.

The first performer to take to the stage was Naqqash Khalid, in a piece called, 'Before A pack Of Wild Dogs Eat My Face'. A multimedia and naturalistic performance, it explored grief and masculinity on stage and screen. The fourth wall was deliberately employed here as the audience were invited to look into a private living room showing a man's everyday life. We don't learn what the man is grieving about - he doesn't speak and the grief is internalised. However, prior to reading the summary, it appeared to me that the piece was about obsessive compulsive disorder. There was repeated footage of him washing up plates in a sink, he regularly rearranged furniture, and looked visibly stressed. Perhaps this was the manifestation of his grief? Maybe he was attempting to neutralise his bad thoughts? The loud beats on a drum and the droning musical notes established a chilling atmosphere.

Kayleigh Price's 'The Left One Out', was an autobiographical, physical theatre piece commenting on social issues and pressures. The performance zoned in on anxiety, frustration, patience, and the misrepresentation of the female gender. It felt like we were watching a panic attack unfold. There was a social comment on how we live in a world where segregation is discretely embedded in our subconscious. I felt like the misrepresentation of the female gender could be explored more going forward, although the frustration, anxiety, and feeling powerless shone through in the choreography. There were moments of strength and determination followed by sudden slipping and falling. Price's rock scream, done in time with the background thrash metal music, complemented the performance themes and was expressive. The Stealth tone, backwards speech, and extremely loud noises made it an intense and uncomfortable experience. That is a positive comment though because we could sympathise with how she felt. 'The Left One Out' very much channelled Artaud's Theatre of Cruelty.

After the interval, a contemporary performance called, 'The Accident Did Not Take Place'. Performed by YESYESNONO and a guest performer from the audience. Despite the title, an accident had taken place but the context surrounding it was unclear. We were invited to join the theatre company in this world of mass media news and social media truth. It was about conspiracy theories and a post-truth world. Each of the performers told the audience how the accident happened but each of them had a different version of what apparently took place. The narrative raised the question which sources of information we can trust. It revealed how easily ignorance can spread. The audience member on stage became the character involved in the accident. He was instructed to do things during the performance, such as say a particular line or copy the performers who were dancing to Madonna's song, 'Like A Prayer'. Why this song? Anyway, after having a think, this performance concept seemed to be a metaphor for how we follow each other blindly like sheep. Specifically, we may receive news from one source, trusting its credibility without considering it might not be accurate, and then share it with other people. They blindly do the same and so on and so forth. One of the conspiracy theories investigated was the 9/11 attacks: this was interesting. The performance accentuated the idea of what is real and what isn't. For future reference, I think there could be more consideration on the style of the text delivery into the microphone.

My favourite performance of the night was the last piece, 'You Are Who You Choose To Be', by Melody Sproates. Sproates is a non-binary writer, comedian, and cabaret artist. Making performance works that entertain, challenge, and inform people on transgender and non-binary issues. The whole performance stemmed from Sproates being sick and tired of being asked: "Are you a boy or a girl?" Essentially, this is a theatricalised version of a YouTube video, encapsulating meme culture in the process. The script utilised the notion of intertextuality: specific words and sentences from pop culture, music, and interviews were chosen to communicate Sproates's experiences with the gender binary on a backing track. This backing track was masterly, lip-synced to by Sproates. Going forward, this piece has real potential to be developed to find out more about Sproates's story and make a positive impact on its audience. The performance was fluid, funny, beautiful, and inspirational. The comedy timing and eye contact with the audience was golden. I especially loved the prod at Piers Morgan. A fantastic, skeleton printed T-shirt was worn by Sproates as well, highlighting the point that all of us are simply human beings. 

Yet another great night out at Home Theatre.

Reviewer - Sam Lowe
on - 26/1/19

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