Livingstones Kabinet: KLIP

A cacophonic darkly comic live collage. A piece of tomfoolery from the void. Their words, not mine, but they’ll do very nicely, thank you. Words are important in this piece: words begged, borrowed and stolen from a series of parlour games. Words as in Merz declamations. Dada rants. Concrete poetry. Percussive noises. Song. Words that play to and with the physical presence of the performers. Words, words, words, words, words. And animal noises. And indeed stuffed animals.

‘Stop Making Sense’ could be the Livingstones Kabinet catchphrase, as we are invited (through the crazily beautiful singing of talented musician and performer Pete Livingston) to Step out of Time. In KLIP words, phrases, sentences are pulled apart violently, as if by teams of wild horses. Hung, drawn and quartered, rather like the hock of ham we see swinging from on high. Cautionary tales and aphorisms (‘If a woman forgets the words to her lullaby and just sings “la la la”, her child will still sleep’). Tongue-twisters (‘Red lorry, yellow lorry’). Mundane or meaningful social talk (‘Why don’t you come home with me tonight?) All are not merely deconstructed but torn to shreds and reassembled. Words sung, words danced, words dallied with and batted around the stage from performer to performer.

And what performers! The four-strong ensemble, two women and two older men, are all great. Particularly the men – Scottish actor/singer Pete Livingstone and Danish actor Sven E Kristensen (a man of many talents – he is apparently also the creator of the theatre of neo-puppetry and a sound designer – although not of this show).  I could watch and listen to these two forever.

Objects are also important – objects physically presence in the performance space, and objects evoked through words. A hock of ham. A Pink thong on a middle-aged man. A blow-up green plastic alligator, the type children use in swimming pools. A stuffed chicken – as in taxidermy, not as in Sunday roast. What does go in the head of a chicken? Cue song. There are lots of songs. And dances. Dances using gestural movement motifs, featuring much play with clothing, that have echoes of Pina Bausch and Nigel Charnock, yet are very much their own thing. There is also a great big back-projection screen, helpfully announcing ‘first part’ and ‘next part’. A keyboard. A trumpet. Cube-masks with painted faces. Ropes. A harness.

There’s a lot of stuff. And a lot happens. A lot of incidences coincide. I’m interested to learn in the programme notes that Danish director/performer Nina Karels trained at Ecole Philippe Gaullier. It would never have crossed my mind that Gaullier’s work was an influence on this piece, but now you come to mention it – it makes sense. Or rather, it makes nonsense.

It’s all, like, totally total. Really, as total as you could imagine. An extraordinary piece, challenging if you are desperate to ‘understand’ what things mean. If, though, you enjoy the anarchic fight back that words and objects can offer to logic and semantics, or even if you just like people impersonating chickens and dropping their trousers to reveal unexpected underwear, then this is the show for you.

KLIP is shortlisted for a Total Theatre Award for Physical and Visual Performance at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2014.



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Dorothy Max Prior

About Dorothy Max Prior

Dorothy Max Prior is the editor of Total Theatre Magazine, and is also a performer, writer, dramaturg and choreographer/director working in theatre, dance, installation and outdoor arts. Much of her work is sited in public spaces or in venues other than regular theatres. She also writes essays and stories, some of which are published and some of which languish in bottom drawers – and she teaches drama, dance and creative non-fiction writing.