Review: Stacey Makishi’s Vesper Time at Contact Theatre, Manchester

By December 6, 2015



“The entire human condition is summed up by Demi Moore”, Stacey Makishi announces to her audience during her new, now-touring show, Vesper Time. At the time, this statement somehow made perfect sense. Along with Demi Moore, Moby Dick and themes of forgiveness and regret, the human power to ‘demi’ yourself (make yourself small) and to ‘moore’ yourself (make yourself big) was at the focus of Makishi’s performance which I saw at the Contact Theatre in Manchester. Hollywood actresses, 19th century novels and the human condition are woven together as the foundation of work that does not typically spring to mind when one considers performance art.

Makishi’s work straddles a range of disciplines. Theatre, film, visual art, and performance come together, delivered in a way that comes across as part thought provoking live art and part bizarre stand-up comedy routine. Indeed stand-up is where Makishi started, working at New York’s Comedy Store after graduating from the University of Hawaii and before moving to Dalston in 1994. Makishi emphasises the importance of humour in her work and wants to draw from her audience a “complicated laughter”. This complicated laughter, or what I felt to be uncomfortable laughter, came about during Vesper Time in reaction to her musings on religion and in particular some blasphemous fantasies about God the Father.

“Church was my first initiation into theatre” Makishi states. The church and Makishi’s relationship with god and forgiveness form another theme of Vesper Time, the performance being proposed as a “secular prayer”. Three white sheets act as the backdrop to Stacey in her angelic white robes.

Though Makishi’s bizarre mix of absurd pop culture references and heavy-hitting themes, may not be for everyone, not to mention the relentless sing-a-long’s to Tracey Chapman’s Fast Car, I loved the way in which her performance drew me to tears, laughter, and caused me to cringe all at the same time.

If provided with the chance to see Makishi’s weave together reflections, storytelling and stand-up, take it, as you are unlikely to see anything else like it!