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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Wounds – Camden Barfly – Live Review

Wounds, Take No Prisoners

Written by Andy Devine

mime-festival-ockhams-razor
Ockham’s Razor by Rosalie Hoskins

I’ll admit it. I’ve never been to much performance art or modern dance before. But let’s just say that my circumstances have somewhat changed of late and at the moment I am enjoying being introduced to new types of creativity.

So, website what’s with this Mime Festival stuff? Well, if you thought that mime was all men in black pretending to grope a wall be ready to have your definition of mime challenged. It seems that mime nowadays is more a combination of contemporary dance and circus. It’s about story telling from an abstracted and expressionistic perspective. In a play you’ve got the constraints of character and storyline – well this modern form of mime is much more like creating a painting over time and space.

I went to my first mime festival performance with a completely open mind, but entirely unsure of what to expect. It’s good to be challenged! Staged in the sadly blighted ICA (threats of closure have been bandied about in the press) this was a truly bizarre tale from Russian troupe BlackSkyWhite – USSR Was Here. In what was to prove a staple the pre-show explanatory notes made absolutely no sense at all, so I just about managed to glean the idea that the ‘storyline’ was based on the brutal history of Russia.

mime-festival-blackskywhite
Blackskywhite by Rosalie Hoskins

The murky blackness of the stage was pierced by the coloured forms of two strange characters who occasionally merged and then separated, interacting in dysfunctional ways. The music and lighting (lighting, I was to learn, is THE key element in mime. God knows how these performers would survive without coloured gels) evoked the kind of freakshow mania I imagine you might have encountered in fairgrounds of yore, the type that could slowly induce madness, in me at least. I really couldn’t figure out how many people were performing, but thought that I counted at least three. Not until the end of the show did I discover that there were actually only two performers, so able to radically change their demeanour as to convince me of their multitude. Double headed? Wherein I presumed the dummy head was the one hanging sideways? Why yes. I was fooled. Clever puppetry such as a curiously adult head on a baby left me wondering where the full person was hidden. With the aid of cunning wide legged pants the two performers were able to mutate, wibbling into shortened gnome figures. Features so altered by elastic bands and hairnets completed my confusion. Despite this discombobulation I have to confess that half way through I was starting to think “When will this nightmare end?” It was not without some relief that an hour later the swirling red and green lights finally came to a halt. Clever for sure, but for a performance artist novice like me watching Blackskywhite was at times more of an arduous task to finish than an enjoyable experience. I think I may have started in at the deep end.

Ockhams Razor-The-Mill-2
Ockhams Razor-The-Mill-3
Ockhams Razor-The-Mill-4

Next up on my Mime Festival week smorgasbord was a trip to the Linbury Studio Theatre at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden (get me), where it appears that there is an even split between people who dress up to the nines for their every operatastic outing, and those who slump along in their civvies. A background in circus was immediately obvious as the wonderfully named Ockham’s Razor performers sat perched deathly still atop giant bobbins as the audience filed in and dry ice swirled around. The centrepiece of this imaginative set was a vast wheel suspended centre stage and this excellent video put together by the troupe describes how the set informed the subsequent narrative of the performance. The five nimble performers scrambled with undue ease (and superb upper body strength) up ladders and along ropes in elegant procession, all the while making sure the wheel was turned. Until it all went intentionally wrong and the rapidly unwinding spools caused a dramatic panic. Yes, the premise of the ‘story’ was slim – the wheel of work goes round and round – but it was a great deal of fun to watch (one of the blokes was well fit which is always nice) and I grinned through the whole show. Plus I felt very pleased with myself for taking sneaky iphone pics which I then put together with my favourite panorama stitch application. Love that thing.

Ockhams Razor-The-Mill-1

Last up was possibly the most interesting piece of mime – a piece called Rankefod performed by a single lady, of indeterminate age, but certainly not in the first flush of youth. (I’ve since discovered that she is in fact over 50. Quite staggering considering what she is able to achieve physically.)

mime-festival-kitt-johnson
Kitt Johnson by Rosalie Hoskins

Kitt Johnson is apparently an ex athlete and her command of her body was quite enthralling: an hour spent in her company at the ICA went a lot faster than the first time around. Starting alone in the centre of the spartan stage for many moments she made use of just a few jutting back muscles and flicks of her legs to evoke the early stages of evolution, as interpreted through her body. At first I thought she was wearing just a pair of hotpants, but I then deduced that her plaited hair was actually conjoined with some cave woman-esque shorts. Despite her naked breasts there was nothing remotely sexual about her presence, which through sometimes barely perceptible movements gradually became more animalistic. Described as a “loner” on her website, Kitt Johnson was something of a revelation. I might yet be a convert to this performance art marlarkey.

mime-festival-blackskywhite

I’ll admit it. I’ve never been to much performance art or modern dance before. But let’s just say that my circumstances have somewhat changed of late and at the moment I am enjoying being introduced to new types of creativity.

So, ambulance what’s with this Mime Festival stuff? Well, mind if you thought that mime was all men in black pretending to grope a wall be ready to have your definition of mime challenged. It seems that mime nowadays is more like a combination of contemporary dance and circus. It’s about story telling from an abstracted and expressionistic perspective. In a play you’ve got the constraints of character and storyline – well this modern form of mime is much more like creating a painting over time and space.

I went to my first mime festival performance with a completely open mind, website but entirely unsure of what to expect. It’s good to be challenged! Staged in the sadly blighted ICA (threats of closure have been bandied about in the press) this was a truly bizarre tale from Russian troupe BlackSkyWhite – USSR Was Here. In what was to prove a staple the pre-show explanatory notes made absolutely no sense at all, so I just about managed to glean the idea that the ‘storyline’ was based on the brutal history of Russia.

The murky blackness of the stage was pierced by the coloured forms of two strange characters who occasionally merged and then separated, interacting in dysfunctional ways. The music and lighting (lighting, I was to learn, is THE key element in mime. God knows how these performers would survive without coloured gels) evoked the kind of freakshow mania I imagine you might have encountered in fairgrounds of yore, the type that could slowly induce madness, in me at least. I really couldn’t figure out how many people were performing, but thought that I counted at least three. Not until the end of the show did I discover that there were actually only two performers, so able to radically change their demeanour as to convince me of their multitude. Double headed? Wherein I presumed the dummy head was the one hanging sideways? Why yes. I was fooled. Clever puppetry such as a curiously adult head on a baby left me wondering where the full person was hidden. With the aid of cunning wide legged pants the two performers were able to mutate, wibbling into shortened gnome figures. Features so altered by elastic bands and hairnets completed my confusion. Despite this discombobulation I have to confess that by half way through I was starting to think “When will this nightmare end?” It was not without some relief that an hour later the swirling red and green lights finally came to an end. Clever for sure, but for a performance artist novice like me it was more of an arduous task to finish than an enjoyable experience. I think I may have started in at the deep end.

Wounds Group 5All photos courtesy of Amy Joyce

It’s been a week to the day that I first heard Wounds eponymous debut EP. To say I was blown away would be an understatement. I listened to it on repeat for the rest of the evening. With each play I noticed something I hadn’t before and got more and more excited at the prospect of witnessing them live.

As I climb the stairs of the Barfly I realise that the band have already begun to play. Walking through the door I’m confronted with a sea of people. I’m quite surprised to see that the room is full at 8 o’clock for an Irish hardcore punk band. Then I notice the huge circle at the front of the stage, recipe about half the room. The lead guitarist and singer are stalking the area which the crowd are afraid to tread while tearing into Trees, the opening track from their EP.

Wounds Group 7

Wounds Guitar 1

The singer has a huge smile on his face between songs as the rest of the band tune their instruments and catch their breath.  You can feel the energy coming from the whole band, despite playing to a room which is half full they’re giving it their all. At the front of the stage the guitarist is a ball of energy as he peels out razor wire riffs while spinning round and rocking out.

The next track Ugly Mouth is a monster of a song with a chugging guitar riff and little flourishes. They are ably assisted by the muscular rhythm section. The drummer in particular, despite being about half the size of his kit, is able to make an impressive racket.

Wounds Singer Guitar 2

Wounds Drummer 1

Things slow down a little for Choke the moody mid tempo track which has a surprisingly danceable bass line. It shows that the band have the capacity to write songs which aren’t all pure speed and aggression. It builds to a false finish before exploding again.

It’s a mixed crowd, there’s barely any ‘hardcore kids’ here, the audience seem a little taken aback during the first few songs. However the singer eventually beckons the crowd closer; stating “Either you come closer or we do”, a threat, or a promise? Fortunatley he never as to deliver, as by this point the crowd have warmed towards the band and take a few steps forward .

Wounds Singer Guitar

Wounds Singer Guitar 3

One of things which most impresses me is how tight the band are, especially considering that one of the guitarist has only recently joined. They’re like a crack unit of musicians, each one in tune with the next as they assault their instruments and throw themselves into the set with gusto.

The highlight of the set comes when they cover Search & Destory by Iggy and The Stooges. It would normally be a back handed compliment to say that the best song of a bands set is a cover but when Wounds play it they make it sound as raw, scuzzy, and punk as it must have been when Iggy and co first played it.

Wounds Group 8

Wounds Group 3

During the song the singer leaps into the guy in front of me, spilling his drink on the floor and I’m expecting a scuffle. However after untangling themselves the amiable singer offers a sincere apology and tops the now empty glass up with his own beer. Who said being in a punk band meant you can’t be polite?

The last song they play is Dead Dead Fucking Dead released at the end of March. It’s a fitting end to the set which sees all members screeching the title/chorus into  the sky.

Wounds Guitar 2

Wounds Group 11

I’m already looking forward to the next time the band are back on these shores. I have no doubt that they’re going to make a big splash. I’m impressed with them but can’t help but think that to truly appreciate them is to witness them in the tiny back room of a pub, filled to the brim with writhing, sweaty, bodies.

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