Late to the table, I know, but I’m posting from another state (geographically, sweet ones), so I hope I’ll be cut some slack by the screaming pitchforked hordes clamoring for a complete Skewed rundown on Radiohole‘s latest messtravaganza. (Hordes? Anyone?)
Here’s my thinking, if it qualifies as such:
First, Radiohole is a great name. As I mentioned to a sympathetic ear on the crowded WAC stairway, which – except for no cigarette/beer/piss smell, entirely adequate lighting, and a graceful un-defaced finish – could have been the location for the line to a very hot new club (how young and hip will the audience get? Well, who knows. These days it takes less and less to be younger and hipper than me. In fact, by now I’m so hipless it’s a wonder my legs don’t fall off [pace, Douglas Adams]. And this post will add nothing to my pelvis.)
Uh, as I was saying: as I mentioned at the time (but in language more awkward and trite) to a sympathetic ear, I feel that Skewed Visions maybe could have been drawing a younger and hipper crowd if we had a name that simultaneously referenced science and pop culture with allusions to contemporary vulgarities. But alas, we only get skewed.
As a matter of fact, this sympathetic ear made me feel so good about being there, so happy, that I slinked down the steep stairs to my memorialized seat with an open heart and a slight adrenal buzz. How long has it been since that has happened?
Squished in my seat, I read the program before anything happened. Radiohole has a moon there, on a swiveling arm, hanging over the audience, tilting and bending, showing off its bolted face, complete with shadowed clouds crossing its surface. I watched it do its little moondance, but already the McGuire space had taken over. High technical sophistication is an odd bedfellow for “outre transgressors,” maybe.
Because trash-aesthetic is not allowed in that space — no matter how many comestibles get flung. I’ve seen it before: the McGuire space eats any performance that doesn’t snuggle up to its clean lines. The curtains, the black perforated baroque, the entire 18th century structure is – besides an unusual topography for contemporary performance – a deathtrap for unconventional theatrics. The proscenium is not an object, it is a state of mind.* [Don't be shy, Charles, tell us what you really think…. Okay: the fly space would be a fantastic place for a show, with the audience lying on their backs on the stage looking up.]
Which was the first issue: The MacGyver space eats mess and spits a fine evening out. (1)
I recognized, perhaps strangely, Paradise Lost before I recognized All That Heaven Allows (or, as I think of it, Far From Heaven). And after that it wasn’t long before I recognized the mode we were in. Since I often like to layer and collage quotes in my crap as well, I was ready to jump on board. But to tell you the truth, I splashed into the drink as they pulled away from the dock. I know you’re supposed to be able to surf this stuff and see where it takes you, but my board musta been broken.
Which was the second issue: My problem with shows too language-heavy for me. (2)
If this had indeed been a Dadaist anti-spectacle it may have done better to take to heart the catchphrase of Seattle’s mess-theater Implied Violence “We don’t care to be understood, to understand is to lie.” I don’t know if Implied Violence achieves this not having seen more than a video of their stuff, but if they live up to their own hype they’d be worth a looksee despite some suspect ruminations I’ve read. Because I think I understood this piece. Messy, yes. But pretty straightforward satire, I thought.
If Whatever, Heaven Allows is a part of Radiohole‘s intent to question or disrupt our 21st century Spectacle as suggested in the program notes, I think it failed. Which is fine. (God knows, this kind of failure is one we urgently need to witness more often. After how many multitudes have settled for just rehashing Death of A Salesman or Molière, we are blessed that another lonely voice is attaching theater practices to a reasonable level of thinking about the world.)
But this is the third issue: Not to put too fine a point on it, but nobody wants to be halfway f*cked. That’s just fu*ked over. We ought to have been fuc*ed up. (3)
*What’s wrong with a little proscenium in your mind? If you want to activate, it is an impermeable membrane. If you want to touch, it is a plasticene boundary. If you want to engage, it is a river to cross. It confines the mind and repels the soul. It’s a tool of power and reassurance to the monied few. It is a means of ordering the visible. Fundamentally, it is a Wall of Death. Check out your Jean-François Lyotard.
Wouldn’t it have been great to see this in a converted garage – a Collapsable Hole? Or better, a recidivist Heathen garage? Or better yet, amid the cigarette/beer/piss, stank and funk of a fading club’s basement storage with low ceilings and sticky floors (with maybe the bass thumps of a One Hit Pop Group filtering through the floor boards from the main room upstairs)?
In other words, there is too much Theater to overcome before the fight with the Spectacle could be enjoined. If you really mean it, take it as far as you can and don’t start out banging your head against the wall. Once more unto the proscenium arch, dear friends, once more! Or close the wall up with our American Beers and jello shots!
[Why Budweiser? Is PBR too hip? All the rednecks I know drink microbrews. But maybe that's just Minnesota.]
See, our old hobby whorse: site-specific is not a kind of theater – it’s not “environmental staging.” It is a way of thinking about the possibilities of art and performance in which space is a material to work with rather than a framework to hide or reveal. And because it must try to destabilize the proscenium, it also necessitates being aware that you are an alien in a hostile environment. We do not Belong. And every move is a fight to the death. Risk it all every time, win over the pit and screw the boxes, take it to the streets.
There’s a fine line between poetry and nonsense. I’d argue that if you’re using language at all, then you’re on the side of the poets. Because aphasia is always a pleasant option – particularly for a world where which label to use – “enhanced interrogation” or “torture” – is a rational topic for public debate. Cripes. Peace is to war as _____ is to ___.
The jello(?) missed Thursday night. By about 6 inches. Fell straight to the floor. So, why did no one pick some up and fling it? At the audience, for preference. It would have Dada-ed us no end. Well, maybe a little anyway.
But I don’t think that was what they were after either. And that, in the end, put the final kibosh on my adrenal rush. The story was clear even if the language was not. The moment when we were told what we weren’t going to see was a nail in my heart. Heartbroke in the lurch, drunk alone in the church. I didn’t want to See a story, but I certainly didn’t want to Hear a story either! Logos! That’s like taking away my box cutter and giving me a thermonuclear device.
And frankly, 1950s Americana is already a beaten dead horse as a symbol of bourgeois American/Western myopic self-satisfaction, conformity and hubris. Is there really no way of adapting apparently humanitarian frustration and rage to a contemporary mythos? (Of course there is. I’ve seen other attempts.)
And what happened to Milton?
But it was a funny show, I laughed a lot.