Seizing the Little House Arena at Latitude, Christopher Brett-Bailey’s latest show gets off to a rocky start. Running almost half an hour late (in what has otherwise been a very tightly orchestrated festival), the audience wait confusedly outside. Eventually, we are admitted inside and Christopher explains the problem. His show is designed to be played at 120 decibels; at that volume, you would be able to hear it at all other stages on the Festival site: the organisers are having second thoughts. Before there is any time to really contemplate this, a steward marches through the crowd hurling neon ear plugs and Christopher proudly declares that they are going to do it anyway until “the Narcs shut us down”.
This Machine involves four electric guitar players strumming loudly and dissonantly. Indeed, their very stage presence evokes a sense of divide; stony faced, they make little eye contact, as if they are members of different bands that have been superimposed onto the same stage. As the tunes sprawl forward, rhythms and subtle harmonies arise through the cacophony. The experience is oddly satisfying, incensing you even while compromising your ear-drums.
Bret-Baileys’ work has consistently explored distinctions between ugly and beautiful, deploying spoken word and experimental theatre to lead the journey. This Machine has a more confrontational and aggressive energy than his previous works, possibly befitting the spirit of the times. The player’s seem to embody a force of nature, beginning apart and gradually coming together.
Latitude is a strange place to show this work. The auditorium is mostly empty; a few people nap on the floor and a few elderly attendees seem thoroughly baffled by the entire display. Much like the organisers warned, This Machine can be heard across the entire site. The industrial sounds of guitar descend like a pall across other stages where other artists attempt to show their (slightly more sanitised) work. In a selfish way, this contributes to the performance, demonstrating its anarchic energy; Brett-Bailey successfully hijacks the festival during his brief slot. That said, I do feel bad for anybody on at that time; undoubtedly, other performers also have statements to make; Bret-Bailey’s revolution is dramatic, but it also feels a bit greedy. 3.5/5
Review written by Sean Gilbert.
This Machine Won’t Kill Fascists But It Might Get You Laid is currently showing at Latitude 2016. The festival runs from Thursday 14th until Sunday 17th July. For more information on Latitude, visit here…