The weekend at Experimentica is always packed with plenty to see. There was the usual detour away from Canton and the opportunity to see more art within our city.
Whilst the festival has for the past few years maintained a Canadian presence, this time round it was Theatre Replacement who would represent their home country. Making a detour to our Grange Gardens, we were in the presence of locals from Grangetown, as the Town Criers. Here these figures (dressed in space opera type costumes) took over the park and through live updates on tablets received messages from family members.
As one started, others soon came and those within the park come over to see what on earth was going on. The messages are pretty banal and do wear thin after a short time. Though when all three were projecting, the park was alive with activity and a real buzz. The family members are moments away or possibly the other side of the city, the joy is in not knowing. Whilst the gardens are no where near as breathtaking as the other places they have taken the show (see the review’s thumbnail), they are a great space for the event, thanks to the grand stand and near enough proximity to the city centre.
My time was brief with the town Cryers, as the next event was in Bute Park. Here, Kathryn Ashill had planned Clocking Off, a march in tribute to guide dogs and also their owners. As we waited for them to arrive, we were offered to hold placards or banners (I picked the former). As the troupe turned up of local blind people and their support dogs, we swiftly made our way over the river and into the park itself. As we made it to the spot we would stop at, Kathryn had prepared words of dedication to those who were presented and to a retired dog who had passed away a few months prior. She offered them all dog collar and the event was pretty much over. Although this was brief, it did come across as a wonderful idea, which should only become larger in scope for the next few years. I also noticed one of the working dogs began to dig violently into the ground after we were done. I guess old habits die hard…
After a few hours break, it was time for some Strange Newes from Paul Hurley and Shaun Canton. Here, with thumping sound work by TYPESUN the work is inspired by 17th century woodcuts in pamphlets of the same name. These pamphlets details strange births, miracles and bizarre wonders (would you expect anything less from the era it was created in). It was not an easy watch in the slightest. Here the shadow puppets hang on racks, as a hooded man (in a garish design) appears to molest and abort babies parts out of another lying figure, as he moans for some time. Maybe it was the slight hangover I had, or the sun burn or just the heat in the space, but myself and friends found it too much and left after a short while. I would have been keen to have seen the shadow puppetry though.
The day ended with a show you wont forget in a hurry: Ultimate Dancer’s show YAYAYA AYAYAY. As we were guided into the completely darkened theatre (even the exit sign was off!) by ushers with glow in the dark gloves, we sat in the dark for sometime. Robbie Thomson’s sound art held up for most of it, with its low frequency distortions and haunting echoes of the dancer’s voice. Our figure is part giant, part harpy, part cheerleader. She is only seen first through the light beaming through her long hair and is eventually made visible thank to the increase of light into the space from the lamps and her own flickering torches. Her height is soon made clear and the words she is saying in fragmented recitations are made clear (“Where are you?” and “What are you doing?!” linger in the memory). We get beams blasted in our eyes after all that darkness and then she flicks glowing stones on the floor, as we are back in the abyss once more. The end was not essentially needed and feels more like a come down period. She squats and speaks more nonsense as she goes further away from us. I am not quite sure what I saw. I just know that is what amazing.
Image: Birkir Brynjarsson