Review: Saturday Live by The Bare Project @ Bank Street Arts
April 3, 2016
I recently had the absolute pleasure of attending my first Saturday Live at Banks Street Arts, a performance scratch night hosted by the talented and wonderfully crazy folks from The Bare Project (That’s B-A-R-E, like naked, not like a grizzly).
Now, according to Sian Baxter, Company Manager at TBP, this particular Saturday Live was a somewhat less hectic affair, with only 4 performances that night instead of the usual 6-8. Personally I’m glad it was a bit more low-key because it meant I got to see all 4 performances, with time for a quick top-up in between, and only just about squeezed in to one of the late night spots for a one-on-one performance that was definitely not to be missed.
Setting off the experimental tone of the evening, Tierra Bonser of London-based performance company BARK, gave an intense sole performance of When You Were Born A Storm Rolled In, a series of excerpts from a script by Bonser based loosely on Welsh queen Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd. Like a group of primary school children eagerly waiting at story-time, we got comfy in any space available on the gallery floor and waited for the tale of Gwenllian to unfold. Using only her voice as a tool, Bonser created a series of emotive scenes with a combination of speech and live recordings which she played back on loop to construct layers of atmosphere. This devising technique that BARK calls ‘live construction’ allowed the audience to experience the fascinating ways that the actress could utilise her voice to create rhythm and tempo, encouraging our imagination to not just hear but see the pouring rain, the army marching to war, the searing howl of a she-wolf. As the piece picked up speed, and jumped from one moment in Gwenllian’s fictitious life to another, I felt myself being carried away from the stark white gallery to a bloodstained field. A riveting example of how technology can aid a performer to create something memorable with very little.
A quick dash to the bar and then we were ushered in to possibly my favourite space at BSA: The Cave, a cosy little space down in the basement with brick walls and a low ceiling, lit by a string of fairy lights across the floor. The perfect setting for the poetic musings of Joe Vaughn, assistant to the Wizard of the Fire Temple (this may or may not be true). An interesting combination of contemporary creative writing laced with nods to notable characters of poets before him, Joe’s poems have an introspective vibe. Many talk about ‘the boy’, creating both a feeling of the everyman but also, as Joe writes about ‘the boy who struggled to write his postgraduate dissertation’ that many of the works are a portrait of the poet himself.
Now, if you asked me which of the evening’s performances had the most impact on me, I would struggle to decide between the final two. Forest Sounds invited us in on a weird, wonderful and somewhat outrageous 3rd Ever Service of The Church of Jim. Set in the atrium, with seats faced toward a make shift lectern, ‘ordained minister’ Andy led the audience through a peculiar collection of readings, chants and songs, performed on array of objects and instruments – all in the name of Jim, or a collection of Jim’s from the yellow pages, but most notably 80’s TV presenter Jim Davidson. Offerings of cake, positive energy, strong encouragement for the audience to sing-along, and a guest appearance from the highly strung founder of the church. All topped off with an energetic and frightening solo dance, accompanied by loud music and flashing lights, which lasted just long enough to go from terrifying and bizarre, to beautiful and hypnotic. Oh, and don’t forget to fill in your feedback sheets.
Leaving you feeling unsure of what you have just witnessed, the piece spoke of the ludicrous origins of belief systems, balanced with a genuine intention for positivity and community. Witty and thought-provoking – it was definitely an experience!
And if the evening couldn’t get any stranger… the one on one performance gave the participant the opportunity to rid their soul of something holding them back in life. Dr Mark Ellis, of Collective Unconscious, invited those of us brave enough, to undertake an intimate ritualistic process, set in one of the smaller gallery spaces at BSA. Through a series of cathartic tasks, mirrored by the performer, we were asked to succumb and expose ourselves, look deeply and speak openly about a part of our personality we found inhibiting. Through the tasks and the intimate relationship formed momentarily with this other vulnerable being, we mutually excised one and others demon’s, something I definitely wasn’t expecting from the evening’s events. Emerging from the darkened gallery space, each participant was marked with a black smear across their cheek, glitter across their brow and a far-off look in their eye – an unlikely tribe with a shared yet personal experience.
The Bare Project runs Saturday Live once every 3 months so keep your eye out for details of their June event here.