London: MUST: to June 5
Posted by: Carole Woddis on May 31, 2010 – 18.20 London
MUST THE INSIDE STORY: …a journey through the shadows of a city, a map, a pound of flesh.
by Peggy Shaw and Suzy Wilson.
Soho Theatre 21 Dean Street W1D 3ND To 5 June 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 3pm.
Runs 1hr No interval.
TICKETS 020 7478 0100.
Review: Carole Woddis 28 May 28.
A legendary body of performance.
What memories does the body retain? In 1996 Shelagh Stephenson’s The Memory of Water scored a huge success as a metaphor for sibling rivalries reignited around a mother’s funeral.
Peggy Shaw’s MUST, implies the body holds many memories. This inspirational journey round her body, performed with the music group Clod Ensemble, and presented as part of their Performing Medicine programme – a fascinating collaboration between musicians, drama and medicine – is performance art that lassoes together love, desire, and medical experiences with the stories the body would tell us if it could. Backed by video projections, internal organs are given surprising shape as geographical terrains – dusty deserts, undulating mountains, hidden valleys.
Shaw is a legendary performer. Founder 27 years ago with Lois Weaver of the influential American lesbian duo, Split Britches and now a 65 year old grandmother, Shaw purveys a stage presence as pungent as any New York martini. With her short cut hair and tall frame, she suggests a Dashiel Hammett reincarnation. Yet the eyes are warmer, more knowing.
The autobiographical and medical experiences she relates are full of shocks. “I have been thirteen bodies in my life,” she tells us before going on to describe having a baby. A nurse tells her to lie down. “I told her I’d rather be in the mud and the rain listening to Jimi Hendrix,” says Shaw with tickets to Woodstock. The account of childbirth is typically acerbic and laconic.
Scripted by Clod Ensemble’s Suzy Willson, Shaw’s memories, some harrowing and using her body as a map, occasionally border on being too metaphorically elusive. The opaque, however, is repeatedly offset by brilliance such as Shaw’s richly throttled voice singing ‘Rattlin Bones’ whilst a video chorus of skeletons mischievously gyrate behind her.
Accompanied with great sensitivity by Clod Ensemble’s trio of piano, violin and double bass, these highly personalised highlights from Shaw’s journey through life and meditations on death exert a fierce hold. But in the end the beauty lies as much in her inimitable persona as it does in the musical and visual architecture with which Willson cleverly embellishes her special story.
Performers: Peggy Shaw.
The Clod Ensemble:
Violin: Calina de la Mare.
Piano: John Paul Gandy.
Double Bass: Richard Pryce.
Director: Suzy Willson.
Lighting: Hansjörg Schmidt.
Music: Paul Clark (‘AIN’T No Sunshine’ by Bill Withers).
Supported by a Wellcome Trust People Award. The project is part of the Identity Project, a nine month season of UK-wide activity from the Wellcome Trust. www.theidentityproject.org.uk