“We are not independent. We are indentured.”
Post-independence referendum. It has been won, and a keynote speech by the Scotland’s Foreign Minister, along with other Westminster politicians, is due to be made. But what on earth will either side say?
Spoiling was a quick 50 minute taster, witty and to the point, set in the office of Foreign Minister, Fiona. She is a character politicians dream to be, reminiscent of the tenacious Margo MacDonald, and a dash of Mo Mowlam (for those who are not familiar with UK politics, they left behind a fair set of boots to fill).
My initial fear with the piece was that, given the current climate, it may suffer from preachy, but heartfelt, propaganda. Save around 10 minutes of the piece towards the end, that was not the case. The dubious territory first came when, after raiding her pile of paper for scraps of new speech script, Fiona begins to improvise who the speech is for. In couplets – a hard form to do well – she and her new political aide, Henderson, describe the masses at length.
The second, which was in fact the ending, was a prolonged and laboured metaphor about fjords. About halfway into it, you could feel the audience’s disbelief that Henderson was still talking about them. All in all, short and sweet. Gabriel Quigley (Fiona) is a delight to watch, filling the room to burst with energy.
In 2000, in Leixlip, Ireland, four women agreed to die. Their pact was to seal themselves in their home and starve themselves to death. And no one knows why.
Ok, positives first. The thing about performance art is that it alienates. It usually asks a lot of its spectators, desensitising them and withholding information to provoke the spectator in creating their own meaning. Not all audiences are up for the challenge, hence the name experimental or alternative.
Lippy is all of those things for one simple reason: no one knows the women did this, especially through starvation. Therefore, it makes sense to create a play where there are no answers. An interpretation of why they did what they did would be putting words in their mouth. Lippy didn’t want to do that. We can all make up our own reasons, but we have no way of knowing if they are the rights one. Besides, even if we were right, what difference would it make to their deaths?
A negative positive. This has always been an irritation of mine with performance art: meaning. Humans are sentient beings. We are always seeking to connect things. It was proved many years ago that the longest you withhold and dislocate meaning for an audience before they switch off is 20 minutes. After that, you lose any engagement you may have previously gained.
- Positive: the endurance required to watch this show is akin to torture. It is slow, it is gruelling, paralleling the presumed torture starvation put the women through.
- Negative: if you aren’t aware of the story, which I wasn’t, I spent the entire show wondering if I was ever going to learn more. That is obviously the point – I wasn’t – but based on the laboured fake Q&A at the beginning, about lip reading putting words in voiceless mouth, it became tired pretty quickly.
For a show lasting an hour and twenty five minutes, twenty five minutes could have been removed and it would have still said everything it had to say (or didn’t).