Tuesday 14 June 2016

quite the best news in some considerable time (rinse and repeat version) – Arts 2, QMU, L

[seen 11/06/16]

Seen as a chance double-bill with Chris Thorpe’s The Milk of Human Kindness, quite the best news in some considerable time (rinse and repeat version) unwittingly forms a near-perfect dialectic with six hours of Daily Mail/Daily Express readers’ comments about immigration.

The form of quite/time is difficult to describe satisfactorily, which is to say, it’s actually incredibly original, and doesn’t slot neatly into a pre-understood category. It’s partly like a live version of a virtual performance (like those, for example that Ant Hampton and Tim Etchells curated for the ICA in 2009), while its set maybe looks like notes toward a Bert Naumann design for the Volksbühne on Rosa Luxumberg Platz, Berlin.

Lights come up on two empty chairs. Two distinct voices – voices that we perhaps subconsciously assume belong to the two people who would be sitting on the chairs – describe the opening mise-en-scene of a performance. It is not this performance. There are mirrors on castors in the corner of this other room. A copy of Ibsen’s plays on a table. Two tiger masks hung off a white board. The two chairs obscured by another whiteboard so that only the performers’ feet are visible to the audience.

Neither of the voices mention the spangly, reflective curtain/fly-blind half hiding a small raised stage with a small table covered in a red cloth on it, and a blonde(-wigged) woman behind it (Eirini Kartsaki) which is actually in front of us, beyond the two chairs which are facing it.

Nicholas Ridout and Lindsay Goss come out onto the stage. The piece is “by” them (see programme), and so I assume it is them, as themselves, who come out onto the stage. They explain that they are actors, however. They then begin to describe a performance that they made last year called quite the best news in some considerable time in which they wanted to answer a question: “what is the role of the intellectual in the revolutionary struggle?”

“We thought (and think) that perhaps we might answer the question by making theatre. This might seem an inappropriate or even frivolous approach.

They explain that they didn’t invent the question, but “found it by way of a translation into English of the Portuguese subtitles for a French film called Letter to Jane: An Investigation about a Still. The film was directed by Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin, collaborating as the Dziga Vertov Group in 1972.”

They explain that their thinking about the question has been informed by the recent political victory of Syriza in the Greek parliamentary elections held on January 25th. They play the soundtrack of Greeks singing the Italian Partisan song Ciao, Bella!

They talk about how, on stage, “characters speaking in their own present are readily understood by the audience to live and speak in the past”. We understand then that they are playing the versions of themselves from their past script, which is perhaps quoted in this script. They talk about Ibsen. They talk about Morecambe and Wise (“They might be, we said, the kind of intellectual we have in mind, but, we clarified, we have no evidence that they participated in any revolutionary struggle.”)

They talk about Yanis Varoufakis and Paul Mason. They describe a performance that they considered making, in which they restaged an interview between these two men. They describe a performance that they considered making, in which they played members of Syriza. They describe the process that led them to abandon that piece. They discuss “cool” and sincerity and embarrassment. They make eye-contact with the audience, which cannot be embarrassing, because they are in the past. They talk about their desire to avoid “left melancholy”. They talk about joy. They talk about destroying Greece’s oligarchy. They talk about John Lee Hooker’s Shake It Baby and Jean-Luc Godard’s Bande Á Part.

And, then, in one of the most remarkable bits of writing for the stage I’ve ever seen, they co-opt the song Rinse and Repeat as a kind of demonstration of and call for a revolution in the most elegant and reasonable fashion imaginable.

When we said “it is not the role of the intellectual in the revolutionary struggle to talk,” we sounded as though we were simply repeating the militant cliché that too much thinking makes it impossible to act. 
This is not what we meant then.

And it’s not what we say now. 
Because, as Lenin teaches us, the role of the intellectual in the revolutionary struggle always depends upon specific historical and material circumstances.

In other words, there is a time to act and a time to think.

So before we end the show, we have to work out which time we are in now. 
And which time we were in then. 
The hit single released on February 26, 2016, “Rinse and Repeat” by Riton with Kah Lo presents its listeners with two different times.

There is a time to make the club go up and there is a time to shut the club down.

What is strange is that the second time seems to follow immediately upon the first, leaving no time for the club to be up before it is shut down.

No time, that is, for the song itself to happen. 
And yet, the song happens.

It just goes on.

This suggests that because there had been a time for the club to be up, the song will always have been able to happen in that time, even if that time has been replaced by the time that comes after the club has been shut down.

The fact that the club has been shut down does not mean that the song cannot have happened during the time in which the club was up.

On the one hand there is no time for the song to happen because the club is taken down as soon as it taken up.

On the other hand, it is quite clear that the song happens. 
What about now? Is the club up or is the club down? 
Here we are now. This is the present.

Which, in many ways, is where my (arguably cheap, but undeniably revolutionary) internal dramaturg would have put the ending of the show. It isn’t where the show ends, and it can’t be where my review ends.

Because, in reviewing terms, all I’ve done is said what happens, quoted extensively from the text, and failed to reiterate all these things through the lens of the fact that I really loved them, and why on Saturday night – after hearing six hours of reasons why Britain was soon likely to be pulled out of the European Union, and that apparently more people in Britain hate the idea of immigrants and immigration than the ideas of compassion or change, let alone the revolutionary struggle – I was actually left feeling optimistic about the future:
The Greek government failed to resist the austerity measures demanded by the Troika with devastating consequences for millions of Greek citizens, a majority of whom voted against those measures in the referendum of July 4, 2016.

This failure has led to many people feeling that Syriza’s victory is no longer quite the best news in some considerable time. 
They allow the future of the past (which is to say, the present, now) to change how they ought to have felt in the past, about events happening in the present, then.

We see it differently.

We still feel, in the past, that this is quite the best news in some considerable time.

We feel this in the present.

We feel the club is still up even if the club’s been shut down...

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