Sunday, 8 July 2012


the whole thing takes places inside an old converted factory shed
as we walk in
a group of bright young things are lounging around on sofas
discussing the previous evenings performances
the air is thick with european accents and idioms
french, italian, but mainly spanish
bohemian-looking young men sport unkempt beards and dreadlocks
dusky mediterranean beauties are all dark eyes and olive skin
among this heaving cosmopolitan crowd
it's reassuring to find some purity
good warwickshire ale being served in the cafe
we grab some drinks and settle down on a comfy second-hand sofa
i flick absent-mindedly through the programme of events
while she strikes up a conversation with a japanese dance performer based in berlin
it feels as though europe is fragmenting, says the programme
it is at times like this that art must come in to its own
i heartily agree
we look forward to imagining a different europe with you
the festival directors proclaim
a positive sentiment if ever there was one
we are ushered into a dark auditorium
in the centre of the stage a white refrigerator is starkly illuminated
on either side are piles of scrunched-up paper
failed drafts from a frustrated writer's pen
suddenly a small window opens
first an arm and then a head pops out
the arm deposits another ball of scrunch-up paper onto the heap
the fridge begins to wheel itself restlessly around the stage
a buzzing bass-frequency soundtrack reinforces the claustrophobia
of a life lived inside a narrow box
eventually the fridge door opens and a dark frock-coated man climbs out
he paces restlessly around rearranging the sparse furniture
referring to notes on a music stand
then plucking half a dozen white rubber balls from the fridge door
he executes a series of mesmerising juggling tricks
as he is consumed by madness
the next performance features a latin dance couple
the two partners pout and posture at each other from opposite ends of the room
spraying themselves suggestively from small perfume jars
presently they begin to dance a sexy samba
but soon the performance degenerates into a sado-masochistic dual
where the lovers drag each other around the stage by their hair
culminating in a torture scene where she fills his mouth with salt
and pours a can of coca cola as he writhes in agony on the floor
as the lights dim their collapsed bodies are finally reconciled
bathed in stroboscopic stars reflected from a spinning mirrored disco orb
during the interval we dine communally in the old workshop hall
at long tables laid out in rows under the cavernous roof of the shed
there are tasty rosemary and lemon bread rolls served with olives
delicious green leaf salad garnished with purple and yellow flower petals
the vegetarians among us savour baked red peppers
stuffed with chopped tomatoes and salty capers
balanced by delicious new potatoes cooked in herbs
our new friend yuko invites us to share her bottle of red wine
which complements the mediterranean cuisine perfectly
struggling to be heard above the cacophany of conversation
yuko tells us of her work in berlin
in the world of butoh
an avant-garde japanese dance genre
back in the auditorium we don individual headphone sets
and sink back into the darkness
for a bizarre sensual sci-fi ride
you are an audience
our semi-human semi-robotic narratress intones into a microphone
she stands centre stage dressed in a red frock and high heels
oddly mechanical, oddly alluring
you are a machine for watching, she continues
remember everything
the ethereal space music echoes and reverberates across the stereo spectrum
now i will take off my knickers, she informs us
she leaves them dangling from her ankles
and her breathy voice begins to mutate into that of a lascivious male porn star
as the music throbs and gathers intensity
as the lighting penetrates her now translucent red dress
she transmutes back into her female identity
and suddenly all is darkness
and we are returned to earth

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