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Friday, 25 April 2008

REVIEW: Adi-diction

Event: Adi-diction
Venue: Bernie Grant Arts Centre
Actors: Artcha James and Katie P

April 23rd 2008:

With an abrupt entrance, Artcha James and Katie P filled the small stage at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre. I was seated perfectly to watch both performers, as they stood in their positions: Katie lay sprawled on the floor, juxtaposed with Artcha's upright and rigid form. They maintained this for a little longer than necessary and with the promise of 'movement' in the advertising campaign, for a moment I thought I was watching the wrong play.

Adi-diction is about a young man by the name of Joe, who is addicted to trainers (hence the play on the word Adidas and Addiction to form the title). The 'story' does not unfold with your typical beginning, middle and end. Instead, it reveals itself in a sequence of soliloquies and confessions to the audience, often accompanied by music. Starting with Artcha, Joe's struggle is evident as he attempts to theorise the problem. Meanwhile Katie skips the bull and breaks it down, educating us on the variation of brands and styles: Adidas, Nike, Puma, Reebok, Airforce 1, Classic, Airmax, Superstar, Finster, Shox, Campus. Not being a connoisseur of trainers, I was lost among the lengthy list; but was quickly brought back into the fold, when the words 'honeydew', 'French lavender' and 'sweet cotton' escaped her lips - transporting me into her candy coloured world of laces and leather.

Whilst Artcha's role is evident from the get-go, Katie's takes a while to come to light. At one point she curled into the foetal position around Artcha's feet and as he stood, feet cocooned and lost in her embrace, I mistook her for a metaphor. Further on I realised Katie was not there to symbolise the trainer, both Artcha and Katie are Joe, just different sides of the same person. This is classic Freud: the ego and the id, the reality principle and the pleasure principle. Katie revels in the addiction, Artcha philosophizes it. A clever twist occurs when towards the end of the play you see Artcha change into the id, as Katie becomes the ego.

The clarity of roles makes for a more interesting play as it allows you to place yourself in the situation, substituting the trainer for your own vice. The ability to become so caught up in something, or someone, comes so easily to many of us that we are often unaware it is happening.

Although both performers were comfortable in front of their audience I was somewhat distracted by the often awkward mirroring of each other's movements across the stage. I understand the purpose, to convey the confusion and miasma, but at times it looked as if they were moving to justify the use of the word in the play's promotion. Despite this their confidence is evident in their delivery, Artcha floats easily between conversational speech and rap and back again; whilst Katie's palette of emotion, from calm to humorous to rage, emphasises the psychosis of Joe's predicament.

Though not flawless, Adi-diction is an interesting exploration of how a passion for even the most innocent of trappings can spiral out of control.

© Rachelle Hull 2008

Saturday, 19 April 2008

REVIEW: Breakin' the Ice

EVENT: Breaking The Ice Karaoke – Valentine’s Special
VENUE: Favela Chic
TIME: 6pm till late

February 2008:

Much noise had been made about this event. The Voice Newspaper demanded it was “definitely a date for your diary’’ so my girls and I decided to check it out.

The venue was a cauldron of South American tapas bar and French fairytale; with hula hoops and umbrellas dangling from the high ceilings. Although the seating arrangement was sparse, the bric a brac d├ęcor worked well, lending Favela Chic a certain charm.

Plied with glasses of red wine, my girls and I were feeling ultra confident, and so we trawled through the book of songs, whilst thinking of a catchy group name. Eventually deciding on Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”, we dubbed ourselves “Don’t Get Out Much” and waited for our five minutes of in-house fame.

Our hosts Annika and Natalie kick started the karaoke; the ladies were a great sport as they gave those of us with cat screams for voices a sense of hope. The concept of the event is not to see who has the best voice, but who provides a more entertaining performance. So it was great to see the novice and the intermediate battle it out to become karaoke King or Queen of the night. With renditions of Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road”, Alicia Keys’ “No One” and the Pussycat Dolls’ “Dontcha” it was going to be a tough call.

In between performances the resident DJs spun tunes that kept the large and fairly mixed crowd bumping, grinding and staying on till late; in spite of it being a mid-week event. The vibe was one I had not felt or seen in a long time: plenty of merry faces amongst a crowd who were obviously charged and out to have a fantastic night. During one of the intermissions a free raffle took place - courtesy of it being a Valentine’s special. Although I bribed three tickets from the ticket man, with my winsome smile and an offer of Lindt chocolates, I still managed to come home empty-handed.

Towards the end of the night, “Don’t Get Out Much” were finally called on to perform. Although our threesome had now become a duet (I had sobered up and chickened out), my girls put on an excellent performance. Engaging the crowd with their tuneless crooning, uncoordinated adlibbing and body popping it was only fair they were crowned Queens of the karaoke. Winning a specially branded ‘Breaking The Ice’ bottle of Champagne – of which I was not allowed to partake.

My only gripe for the night was no set finishing time, so it appeared to drag on for that little bit too long. But if you did not come or you came and did not let go, let flow then you missed out. Big time!

© Rachelle Hull 2008

Saturday, 12 April 2008

ESSAY: 'We Don't See All of Who We Are'

March 31st 2008:

Wise words spoken during one of Obama’s many speeches; Michelle that is – not Barrack. Throughout history the representation of the black woman has been less than favourable. She is often sexualised and dramatised, whether for comical effect or to further discredit the very foundations of a struggling nation. Her value in society shuffled around like a pack of cards – always the joker, but never the ace. Her very existence often laying at the bottom of the social ladder, or just simply ceasing to exist.

The many complexities of what it means to be a woman, first and foremost, are apparent. Added to this the identification with a race so full of riches and woe, it would seem there are many avenues to choose from. But that has not been the case, until now. Not for a long time has the representation in the media delivered so much promise.

Introducing Michelle Obama: a Vice President of community and external affairs for University of Chicago Hospitals and a graduate of both Princeton University and Harvard Law School. Not to mention wife of Barrack and a mother of two. Impressive indeed, but not the main focus. Her ability to comprise all these areas of her life and not apologise for being active, and determined in each is what makes her a remarkable woman.

I am often bombarded with women who appear to be mere shadows of those I identify with in my own home. Not ashamed of being ambitious, whilst drawing her own guidelines for success along the way and proud of being cultured and passionate beyond belief, I share an affinity with Michelle. For these are parts of the core values passed on to me, like heirlooms, from my mother.

It is rare to see us placed within a context; particularly one that is not limiting and void of any profundity. One dimensional characters are all too easily churned out for the masses to feast on and digest without complaint. All too often we are seen as carrying on in this world alone. According to the media, family is an alien concept for the black woman. With no support system, or rejecting the one that was offered we are portrayed as bitter from our experiences and lashing out at those who look most like us: the male and the female form.

So, what a breath of fresh air to see Michelle and the family unit intact: wholesome and tangible. She is not an apologist for drawing strength from this; recognising the benefits and holding fast. Nor is she an apologist for celebrating selfhood outside of her kin, instead she revels in the dynamics that complete her. She is a card-carrying member of Woman.

© Rachelle Hull, 2008

ESSAY: The Pursuit of Happiness?

February 28th 2008:

The endless pursuit of happiness in career, love and with self is what seems to be the life of an average twenty-something female in Britain today.

Promises of further education being the ticket to success had us all filling out numerous applications before we’d even sat our GCSEs. Envisioning doors opening with ease; once exams were all said and done and the qualification papers were in hand. Then, reality hit: the majority of us were steered on the same narrow road to reach our career goals, and thus we resulted in blocking the road, making it much smaller and even more competitive.

Hard work is not the issue, for a lazy and apathetic culture who expect everything to be handed on a plate (plus five minutes of fame as an extra serving) is unproductive for everyone. The question is, even when our feet are through the door are we ever able to remov
e our shoes and feel at home? Or are we made to feel like an eternal GI Jane, striving to keep up in an ’Old Boys’ Club’?.

And what of love? In this world of digitalisation and Photoshop are his expectations too high? Bombarded with images of fast cash, in an almost cashless society and lavish living have I become accustomed (some say conditioned) to the need for greed; where my happiness can be counted, literally? Speed dating has become the so-called advanced way of finding a partner, a method that appears to have been created for those of us who barely have the time to meet people under more ’traditional’ circumstances and thus we do not want to waste further time with undesirables. With three to eight minutes allocated per person we are able to meet as many potential partners as possible, in one night or a few. In a society insistent on choice this appears to be a natural addition to the list.

But what happened to the time before, when intimacy was not sold in a 30ml bottle and truth was more than just an artist with a one-hit single? Has the era of true companionship passed this generation by?

It has been said that the art of true love is acceptance, yet how do we begin to love another if we have not mastered the art of loving ourselves? I can categorically say that the hardest relationship I currently have is the one with myself: recognizing strengths, improving on weaknesses and finding my own niche in this often confusing and testing journey of life. Of course it is unrealistic to feel confident about self in every situation, especially when we are taken out of our comfort zone, but how do you convince someone you are the right person for the job (work related or otherwise) if your self-confidence and acceptance of self is non existent? So though I may at times find myself questioning my choices and wondering about my actions, there does come a point where I know that whatever decision I make it is the best one for me..

There is nothing permanent about a career, a relationship or even confidence; neither of these are consistent or guaranteed on a long-term basis. Maybe it isn’t happiness we should be seeking, perhaps it is contentment. Where we can be satisfied with our achievements (whatever they may be) on a long term basis and rid ourselves of the short term, almost drug-like high happiness seems to offer.

© Rachelle Hull 2008
Published (in part) in the New Nation newspaper


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