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More Soup and Tart at the Barbican: a review

Featuring the likes of lobster lover Edwina Ashton, furry dancing from Marcia Faquhar, acrobatic clowning from Frauke Requardt, plate slinging from the aptly named Holly Slingsby and Martin Creed, Simon Bookish and Ryan Styles... this was certainly a night to remember (in parts).

Written by Amelia Gregory

More Soup & Tart by Ben Jensen
More Soup and Tart by Ben Jensen.

It was always going to be a tall order to recreate the seminal work of underground performance artists, viagra but the Barbican programmers clearly like a challenge: to accompany the current exhibition Pioneers of the Downtown Scene, more about New York 1970s (read my review here) More Soup and Tart was staged as a topical update of Jean Dupuy‘s legendary 1974 Soup and Tart. The premise was simple, order the audience was served with leek and potato soup on arrival, then treated to performances from over 30 artists who were each given a two minute window of opportunity to showcase new work. During the interval we were served (slightly dry and greasy) apple tart.

7. Ryan Styles. MST, Barbican 2011
Ryan Styles by Lou Cloud.

What ensued was a very mixed bag of work, featuring short pieces from established names such as Martin Creed, Ryan Styles and Simon Bookish alongside some lesser known artists. Quality was variable and there were a couple of instantly forgettable performances (particularly film) but those that did work were punchy and engaging, creating a long lasting impression. The giggly Friday night audience were prone to outbursts of chuckling at the slightest suggestion of humour, which was just as well since there was much to be had. Here’s my pick of the best…

11. Simon Bookish. MST, Barbican 2011
Simon Bookish. He appeared in Amelia’s Magazine some time ago!

Edwina Ashton,  MST, Barbican 2011
Edwina Ashton – Lobster Song/Lobster Singing.

In the first half Edwina Ashton entertained with Lobster Song/Lobster Singing, featuring two creatures with lobster features who plucked at upturned guitars in a vaguely depressive manner before shuffling offstage. The success of this piece lay in the offbeat juxtaposition of crazy costume and very ordinary stage set up, a pretty girl in undefinable traditional dress at hand to turn the sheets of music. We are currently listing her exhibition at the Jerwood Space.

Stewart Home Barbican
Stewart Home – Spam Turned Upside Down.

Stewart Home then highly entertained with Spam Turned Upside Down, whereby he stood on his head and recited cock enlargement offers for celebrities. It was short, memorable and again, crucially, amusing.

Nicoletta Tiberini led a Sounding Poem of carefully placed harmonies from her choir, which were dotted around the auditorium.

Mothball Marcia Faquhar by Ashley Fauguel
Mothball performed by Marcia Faquhar. Illustration by Ashley Fauguel.

For Mothball Marcia Faquhar removed a giant fake fur coat from a vacuum bag and proceeded to dance around underneath it, flinging her heels off in several directions before being forcibly removed from the stage. This was, I imagine, the closest to the spirit of performance art in the 1970s, which is maybe why it worked so well.

2. Andrew and Eden Kotting, MST, Barbican 2011
Andrew and Eden Kotting.

Andrew & Eden Kotting performed the most poignant piece titled Hiding From the Big Guns (Can I Kick It? Yes I Can) which consisted of a man leading a shrouded figure as it kicked a can across the stage against a backdrop of slides that showed the same camouflaged figure in different locations. On reaching a record player the figure was encouraged to kick at the turntable until the shroud was removed to reveal Andrew’s daughter Eden, who suffers from a rare genetic disorder called Joubert Syndrome. It was a profoundly strange and awkward moment that served to enhance the preceding piece.

13. Frauke Requardt. MST, Barbican 2011
Frauke Requardt by Lou Cloud.

Frauke Requardt‘s Episode consisted of two androgynous leotard clad clowns who danced in acrobatic synchronicity against an eery backlight… this was presumably a preview for the new show starting at The Place in June. It was a very effective taster because I now wish I was going to the full performance.

Holly Slingsby by Lou Cloud.

The first half ended with Holly Slingsby performing Minotaur in a China Shop (Golden Calf Version) which entailed a lady in bull mask and gold dress chucking plates against the floor.

Lucy Beech and Edward Thompson, MST, Barbican 2011
Lucy Beech and Edward Thompson.

Into the second half: for Lucy Beech and Edward Thomasson‘s 7 Year Itch a group of amateur dancers took to the stage in costumes reminiscent of childhood gym classes. They then created a sport inspired sequence which broke down into its component parts to reveal the thrashing, groaning, sighing sounds of the act of sex – very clever indeed.

Tom Woolner by sanna dyker
Tom Woolner by Sanna Dyker.

Tom Woolner donned a huge blow up head to perform An Early Episode from the Life of Archimboldo, wherein he proceeded to pick his nose in slow motion until a vast green goblet descended to the floor.

Penny Arcade. MST, Barbican 2011
Penny Arcade.

Bad girl performance artist Penny Arcade had flown in from America to give her acerbic take on the Vagina Monologues: this was in effect a short comedy skit.

Dog Kennel Hill Project, MST, Barbican 2011
Dog Kennel Hill Project.

Dog Kennel Hill Project performed Death Scene 347 with the aid of random objects to create the sound effects: concrete blocks, sacks of potatoes and a belt. It was delicately beautiful but I have a burning question… why was it necessary for one of the performers to appear in her pants?

Sam Lee, folk singer and old friend of mine, then stood to perform from the middle of the audience. It was the perfect musical interlude and rightly received a great round of applause.

Tai Shani 2, MST, Barbican 2011
Tai Shani.

In the second half of Tai Shani‘s To Dream and Die in America a group of extras appeared, I think to represent various Hollywood icons. Apparently it is de rigour for every piece of performance art to feature a random naked lady, and this was the piece to do the honours in More Soup or Tart.

Potentially the most absurd performance came courtesy of Tim Etchells, whose And Counting purely relied on members of the audience to shout Now at random intervals. Cue much cackling.

Christian Marclay‘s Smash Hits 1991 upset me greatly: for his two minutes he proceeded to smash a large heap of records and through it all I kept thinking: but what if there’s something good in there? This kind of wanton destruction pains me greatly.

33. William Cobbing, MST, Barbican 2011
William Cobbing – Mobile Home.

We finished on William Cobbing‘s surreal Mobile Home… a globular slab of clay tugged across the stage as the inhabitant pushed it’s arms out of holes to smear and slap the wet clay around in a nosily seductive manner. Like all the best performances of the night it was simple, surreal and instantly engaging.

I hope there is More More Soup and Tart soon.


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