Corridor, Deep End

Review in Issue 18-1 | Spring 2006

Deep End is a 30 minute long guided tour of the Marshall Street Baths in Soho. The programme lists an impressively large creative team, but the overall style of the piece bears the hallmarks of the director, Geraldine Pilgrim. A small audience group are sat in a changing room whilst a man in a construction site hard-hat gives an introductory talk. It might have been useful health and safety information, or it might have been the start of the fictional tour. I couldn’t tell, and in truth was slightly distracted by the surroundings, which had already started to weave their spell. There were plans in glass cases, signs on the walls and objects in cupboards, which might have been put there by the company or might have been there since the baths shut. You just couldn’t tell. A silent guide then led us away. We journeyed through rooms small, long or large, each containing a performer or two – creating atmospheric tableaux rather than telling us one story. We pass two sleeping people in a changing room: when we come back through the room they’ve disappeared, leaving their clothes. We see a nervous mother beside a ’30s-style pram; ghostly bathers behind glass windows. On entering one room, the door of another room slowly opens to reveal an elegant young woman brushing her hair. Her maid walks slowly backwards and forwards, filling up a bath with a kettle too small to do the job efficiently. The sound of her footsteps, the whoosh of the hot water, was most affecting. Finally, we go down a spiral staircase. On each floor, installed in the tiny space available is an image which connects the baths to its geographical, social and cultural surroundings: a prostitute with a predatory male lurking on the stairs, a yuppie with a laptop in an Italian café, a homeless person trying to sleep, a transvestite on the phone, and a Chinese lion dancer.

There were a few clichéd moments (synchronised swimming and the image of a showgirl with a carnival head-dress which has featured in quite a few recent shows) and the video suffered from a lack of a budget (the screen should have filled the entire bath not a tiny little bit) but otherwise it was a thoroughly bewitching and satisfying blend of performance and inspiring architecture.

Artforms
Presenting Artists
Site

Marshall Street Baths

Date Seen
  1. Dec 2005

This article in the magazine

Issue 18-1
p. 24