We all know those cute three-chord 60s songs. You’ve lost your love so why does the sun go on shining? Try playing that line over and over and over until it becomes the menacing chant of a psychotic.
‘Violence’ is not theatre and it’s not movement, although it contains a bit of both. It’s a new piece of performance art by Glasgow-based FK Alexander. It starts with her sitting at a table decapitating flower heads with a guillotine. It’s defiant and it’s hostile. Some shit has definitely happened.
She stands up slowly like someone about to put a dagger through your heart, but she does not speak. Instead, her red shoes clack and scrape on the floor beating out her defiance. She walks backwards. Her legs wobble at times. Gentle red smoke comes in from the right of the stage. She stamps.
It feels like we are on a cross channel ferry with the persistent low rumble of engines deep below. We gradually notice a percussionist playing on stage left. Meanwhile, there is a projection onto the screen at the back: “love, loveless, lovelessness”. We get to feel the monotony and the circularity of her thoughts.
Back to the song that’s getting more and more distorted. “Why do the birds go on singing…?” We don’t find it cute any more. Drums bang.
FK Alexander is on stage solo for nearly an hour and her body language never misses a beat. She describes her work as concerned with wounds and recovery. That feeling gets across. There is no straightforward narrative and we can’t mistake her bitterness and aggression. But perhaps the repetition goes on for too long. At the back, after 40 minutes, some of the mainly young audience were checking their phones.
So, does this performance work at the Attenborough? Probably not. The staff here deserve credit for always creating a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. But putting on ‘Violence’ at a venue of this size is like hosting a chess match at the Barbican. We can’t see the moves and we can’t smell the sweat. We need to be close enough to be scared.
Attenborough Centre, Thursday 7th March 2019
Words by Mike Aiken
Photo by Joanna Stawnicka