Last Friday, I saw Bloody Mess by Forced Entertainment at UCLA. Forced Entertainment is an experimental theatre company out of Great Britain (Sheffield specifically). They were in town as part of the International Theatre Festival in the UCLA Live series.
Forced Entertainment was founded in 1984 and makes not only theatre productions but performance art, gallery installations, and video art as well.
And now I'm gonna quote from the program notes:
One thing that holds this diversity together is the group's interest in task-based performance. Often in the work, the idea of the performer's ‘simply doing a job' is invoked---there's a banality or at least an everyday quality to their presence. . .
Bloody Mess has been made as part of the company's 20th birthday celebration and it seems like a very appropriate project at this point in time. For us, the mess and its structured exuberance is something of a manifesto; an insistence that theatre can be more than drab story or literary rhetoric, that its heart lies in play, in liveness and in the event.
That whole quote became so clear after seeing the play.
I went on a last minute whim. I needed a theatre fix. I had been awhile since I had had a theatre fix.
Friday early evening ended up being more action packed than I had expected. I left my necklace at the gym and had to drive through rush hour traffic to get back there to find it lying innocently on a locker room floor.
Then, at UCLA, someone tried to steal my Sudoku puzzle book. I accidentally left it at the Will Call table. When I went back for it, some girl was holding it while the Will Call lady looked on helplessly.
‘That's my puzzle book.' I said.
‘But I like it.' The girl said.
‘You can't have it. It's mine.' I said as I took the Precious back. Get your own puzzle book, bitch.
I was in a funk as I sat in my seat. What possession was I gonna leave behind next? I sought solace in numbers one through nine (one per square, column, and row). I forgot to turn off my cell phone (yep, it rang).
The play opened with two clowns arranging chairs. One clown wanted the chairs upstage. The other wanted them downstage. Naturally, high jinx ensued. The chairs all ended up downstage. I was not impressed with this bit although some audience members laughed like they were about to die from the hilarity. To me, it was just chairs. Yawn. Seen the Ionesco play. Next.
In the second bit, the company came out, sat in chairs, and introduced themselves. Hello, my name is Simon. In tonight's performance, I will be charismatic, so charismatic that you will not take your eyes off me. I liked this bit. The company of ten suddenly became a company of individuals, and they were funny. Funny in a good way. Okay, the chairs are forgotten. The chairs were crap, but I'm with you guys.
The play then exploded like an H-bomb, and I was even more delighted. They played loud rock music. The Theatre needs more loud rock music---and air guitar. Why is there no good air guitar in the modern Theatre?
There were a lot of pretty colorful gels on their lights. And! They had a fog machine. You can never go wrong with a fog machine. One girl spent the entire play running around, changing her clothes, pouring bottled water on her head, and swinging around an old brown blanket like a stripper/dominatrix/rock star. Another girl spent the entire play in a gorilla suit. She occasionally took the head off to remind us how much we desired her---it was a deep profound desire. The two clowns returned---one told the story of the creation of the world and one did impressions of weapons. There were two guys who spent a section of the play with large stars covering their naked bodies as they theorized the types of silence they could create.
Bloody Mess levitated me. It had been a long time since I had seen really good theatre. This was not only good but in synch with my theatrical aesthetic (yes, I have a theatrical aesthetic, doesn't everyone?). The company was physical, brutal, and funny. They played loud music and had nice costumes. The fog machine was an added plus.
After the play ended, I talked to Domh (Dear One of My Heart---the H is silent) on my cellphone while standing on benches in the sculpture garden at UCLA. All around me, there were strange shapes and forms in shadows as I paced back and forth on a long strip of wooden benches. My boots tapped as I stepped, and there was a garbage can I had to step over several times. There was a sculpture that looked like a horse---or the bones of a horse, only not all the bones of the horse.
At some point, I realized that I had become similar to the play I had just seen---movements that seem strange but had banal purpose and brought aesthetic pleasure. Why not pace on the top of flat wooden benches?
Had my life become art? I look to life to make art. I distort and change and fictionalize and mytholize. But here was my reality---slightly distorted from the norm.
Before the play, I had been off kilter in a bad horoscope day kind of way. After the play, the benches lifted me up off the ground and gave me a platform to stand on. The benches turned my existence into something strange, and it was a quite pleasant experience.
I don't seek to turn my reality into art. I don't want to be that funking art-living person who's like woo-hoo, look at me, I'm so funky and arty. Or maybe I have become that person and I'm in denial. I couldn't just sit on the bench and talk to Domh. I had to walk around on top of it. I'm not sure if I mentioned this fact to Domh in our conversation, but I'm telling you now, gentle reader.
In Martiniquan culture, there's a term called Art de Vivre or art of life. It's the belief that time should be taken in the course of a day to enjoy life. It's important to laugh. It's important to enjoy. Maybe, we should all strive to turn our lives into art or find the art of living. It's all but a dream anyway. Maybe I should change outfits more often.