2017: Security. Stability. Opportunity. Stability. Stable stability. Strong and stable. Strong. Stable.

2015: Opportunity. Opportunity. A land of opportunity. Hard working people. Hard, hard, hard. Families. People working for their families. Working hard.

1992: This government. This government. This government keeps its promises. Not always standing there as moaning minnies. Now stop it!

Nic Green’s Cock and Bull was made in 2014, in response to David Cameron’s election campaign. Three women (Nic Green, Rosana Cade, and Laura Bradshaw), dressed in man suits, with Goldfinger gold hands and mouths, stand in the performance space, which is set up in traverse. Whatever way they face, someone is looking right at them. They rant, they rave. They spit and drawl and drool, repeating the words of Cameron and co ad nauseum. It becomes a Concrete poem. Merz.  Hard hard hard. People, people, people. The words start to disintegrate. The suits start to disintegrate, jackets and trousers falling by the wayside, baggy boxers and breasts covered with an x of black gaffer tape revealed. The gold paint starts to disintegrate, gilt to grime. They sweat, they shout, they bump, they grind. It’s an exorcism, a shamanistic ritual. Calm down, dear.

Just three years since this show surfaced and ye gods – things have moved on swiftly since then. David Cameron out, Teresa May in. A foolhardy referendum on EU membership, and a Brexit result. Another general election. And today’s the day. Off we go to the polls again – third time in two years! By the time you read this, it may well be all over.

It feels as if a lifetime of politics has passed by since Cock and Bull was made. The show made an attempt to update itself with an inclusion of the ‘grab her by the pussy’ moment from the 45th president of the USA, but this feels slightly token and out of place, particularly as there is no reference to Teresa May. Given that events have already overtaken it, it might have been better to keep Cock and Bull of its time – a response to Cameron, Osbourne et al without any attempt to update. Because this it does very well indeed, and the points made about privilege and deception and sloganeering are (sadly) flagging up behaviours that show no signs of going away. Sometimes, in fact, it seems as if no time at all has passed and we are back in the heyday of Thatcherism. Significantly, I saw Cock and Bull (at the Attenborough Centre for Creative Arts) six weeks ago, on 19 April  2017 – the day that  parliament voted to back Teresa May’s call for a general election…

It’s interesting to be witnessing this extraordinary piece of physical, visceral and political theatre at ACCA, on a stage that has seen so much come and go. ACCA (part of University of Sussex) was formerly known as the Gardner Arts Centre, for years a bastion of fabulous artistic activity in the South East, with a programme which included work from afar (Peter Brook, Wim Vandekybus, Ryoji Ikeda), much admired UK companies such as Forced Entertainment and Jasmin Vardimon, and always a healthy amount of quality work from locally based artists with a national and international profile, including Dreamthinkspeak, Vincent Dance Theatre and Liz Aggiss.

It’s Liz I’m thinking of right now. Her company Divas were regular fixtures at the Gardner, and the ghost of one show in particular seems to have left its trace in this space. Drool and Drivel! They Care! was the Divas response to Margaret Thatcher’s use of the English language as scatter-gun political tool. Conservative party slogans and catch phrases uttered by Mrs T are repeated, regurgitated, deconstructed, and reduced to absurdity. They are reassembled into ditties danced to with vaudevillian panache, whilst the performers mouth the words. Moaning Minnies  is a personal fave – a choreography of sur pointe ballet moves danced in houndtooth suits, handbags to the fore. Now stop it. Now stop it. Now stop it. This Government (a riff on the ‘This government keeps its promises’ Thatcher soundbite) is a moment of genius – the sketch reworked to give us a line of five Maggies morphing into Majors.

Drool and Drivel! They Care! and Cock and Bull were made more than three decades apart – both created/choreographed by gifted women artists who understand that the personal and the political can never be separated. It is sad, on the one hand, that Liz Aggiss’s work seems so relevant today, with Maggie-wannabe May taking us once again to the polls accompanied by an absurd chorus of near-meaningless slogans; but reasuring, on the other hand, that artists such as Nic Green have stepped up to continue the good work of debunking political clap-trap and reducing this cock and bull to what it is – drool and drivel .

 

Nic Green: Cock and Bull won a Total Theatre Award at the Edinburgh Fringe 2016. It was seen at the Attenborough Centre for Creative Arts on 19 April 2017. www.attenboroughcentre.com 

For more on Liz Aggiss/Divas’ Drool and Drivel! They Care! see the artists’s archive

 Total Theatre Magazine is embarking on a quest to fund the creation of an interactive archive of material, with the aim of placing all 100 print versions of the magazine from 1989 to 2012 online. Partners in this project include Attenborough Centre for Creative Arts, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance. See www.totaltheatre.org.uk  for further news updates.

 

 

 

Dorothy Max Prior

Dorothy Max Prior

Dorothy Max Prior is the editor of Total Theatre Magazine, and is also a performer, writer, dramaturg and choreographer working in theatre, dance, live art and street arts. Under her alter-ego Dorothy’s Shoes she creates performance work that both honours and usurps the traditions of popular dance and theatre, and plays with the relationship between performer and audience. Much of her work is sited in public spaces or in venues other than regular theatres. She is also co-director of street theatre/dance company The Ragroof Players.

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