Sleepwalk Collective: As the flames rose we danced to the sirens, the sirens ¦ Graeme Braidwood

A lone woman in a blonde ‘Marilyn’ wig and slick black dress stands at a tall microphone. She speaks to us directly but with an accent that’s hard to place and poetic text that, like a dream, starts in one place and ends in another. The blonde woman talks about black and white movies and how she wants to be the ‘take all of me’ woman, so she stands completely still for a minute so that we can do what we like with her. No one moves.

This new performance from Anglo-Spanish company, Sleepwalk Collective (currently based in the Basque Country), is edgy and playful, referring us to this strange world of cinema, and using the particular liveness of performance to enact what is only pretence on screen. Quirkily performing various filmic stock scenarios, she announces ‘tie me to the tracks!’ and lets a toy-train run into her mouth. She drinks many glasses of wine as ‘a woman in love’ – or is it as ‘a man seducing a woman’, or ‘someone drinking to forget’? The piece builds to a scene in which a projection of a black and white movie covers the back wall and runs in a loop, showing a woman continuously fainting into the arms of a man. Our blonde lady then dances and falls across the image to loud electronic music: ‘she’s looking for a room full of strangers whose arms she can fall into,’ says the blurb.

I found the work interesting as a comment on the filmic character of the ‘damsel in distress’ who, when put on stage, is somewhat callous, desperate but still charming, resonating with the vulnerable relationship of a lone female performer appealing to a live audience. The work makes use of performance art devices in a theatrical frame, working with the very live moment to negotiate ideas with an audience, seeing how far they can be pushed when, for example, watching the ‘girl cut in half’ trick acted out by a woman sawing her own sides with a small saw. This heavily text-based work felt brave in the context of BE Festival’s cross-border programme (although performed in an English version and not the original Spanish), but the filmic references translate across linguistic barriers.

Hannah Sullivan

Hannah Sullivan

Hannah is a performance maker and freelance producer based in Bristol.

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