Author Archives: Miriam (Mim) King


About Miriam (Mim) King

Miriam King is an Artist/Choreographer/Dancer/Live Artist/Filmmaker born in London , living in Brighton , working internationally. With an art school background, her professional performance career commenced in 1984. Moving from theatre through to dance, and to live art and film, her most significant training was with Anton Adasinsky's company DEREVO at their former studio in Leningrad, Russia in 1990. Miriam's work is influenced by Butoh dance. She has been creating her own unique performances since 1992, taking her to dance and live art festivals and artist-in-residences around the World. Her award winning dance film work has been shown at Lincoln Centre/ New York , Pompidou Centre/Paris, ICA/London, the Venice Biennial and at the Sydney Opera House, Australia and in every continent (excluding Antarctica ). Miriam has a continuing performance relationship with Gallery Kruh, Kostelec nad cernymi Lesy, nr Prague , Czech Republic which commenced in 1992 and an ongoing performance relationship with SoToDo Gallery , Berlin & the Congress of Visual and Performance Art.

Wim Vandekeybus/Ultima Vez: TrapTown

It all begins, and ends, with rabbits. A rabbit on screen is wondering why the human on stage is carrying the guilt of earlier generations. They’re the cute bit, and bring a welcome touch of fluffy, nose-snuffling humour.

In TrapTown, the legendary Belgian director and choreographer Wim Vandekeybus gives us a multi-media smorgasbord: dance, film, spoken word, and an original musical score (by Trixie Whitley and Phoenician Drive). There’s a wonderful maze-like set of slate-y metallic partitions, designed by architect duo Gijs Van Vaerenbergh. Vandekeybus works with the universal appeal of myth by creating a riveting landscape in which his dancers move: twitching and wrangling their bodies, minds and souls through a labyrinthine city that I certainly wouldn’t want to go anywhere near.

Within this old/new world citadel there’s a long-running conflict – but there are intimations of change, and sparks of freedom are flickering. The protagonist, the son of the bead-wearing, hair-plaited mayor of TrapTown, reminds me of Tilda Swinton’s version of a boy in Orlando. He wants to bring justice and fairness to the lives of the town’s inhabitants. TrapTown is a place of crowded passages and corners, rank and seething with no colour and little privacy, even when going to the toilet. Overshadowing, or we could say undershadowing everything is the threatening, impending catastrophe of living one’s days in a society on the brink of collapse. The ‘sink hole’ threatens, the mystifying abyss from under, from the unknown, against which there is no defence…

I have always admired and been excited by the work of Wim Vandekeybus. I would cite his 1999 dance film In Spite of Wishing and Wanting as one of my strongest memories of powerful Dance for Camera work. He is one of a group of choreographers, alongside Jan Fabré, Alain Platel and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, who spearheaded the Flemish New Wave in contemporary dance in the 1980s. In the mid-1980s, Vanderkeybus performed in Jan Fabré’s groundbreaking The Power of Theatrical Madness, and soon after, he founded his own company, Ultima Vez. His first show, What the Body Does Not Remember, earned him international success. Vandekeybus strives for the form to be different in every show he makes, and so in TrapTown, he works with the idea of a classical mythological play, mixed with a vision of a future dystopian society, in a kind of graphic novel told through live performance and film.

The first twenty minutes had me captivated, as you’d expect from an Ultima Vez show – exceptional dancers, movement that is both robust and liquid. In the film, projected at the rear of the stage, characters are speaking out of the screen to the live characters on-stage. The set in the film is amazing. I loved the music, the songs and the visual imagery, which is beautifully, technically and skilfully executed – such as the moment when the bird flying on screen touches the corpse of the boy lying in real life below the screen. Some scenes I particularly enjoyed, such as the corpses dancing, rigour-mortice-ing about, bodies contracting in their last leaps and throws. There was ample walking off stage into screen, and off screen onto the stage, Forkbeard Fantasy style, creating sections where the dancers and the film worked together wonderfully.

But there were also many lengthy passages of un-engaging nonsense, such as a scene where the audience are asked to ‘show their balls’. This involves some awkward audience participation where footballs are passed from the audience on to the stage. After the initial visual and aural ‘wow’, TrapTown became disappointingly tedious. There is a lot of plaited hair and earnestness. The dancers act well enough, have good clear voices, but much of the text is clunky, and proclamations such as ‘There is no growth in comfort, and no comfort in growth’ just took the narrative and direction spiralling up its own backside.

Finally, a hole appears, nature takes all and wins, whilst the rabbits snuffle around and look on…

I wanted to be absorbed, taken into this world, yet found myself sitting back, watching highly skilful and proficient work quite coldly. Ultimately, I didn’t care about the characters, or the story. It all slipped away into its own sink hole of  magnificent twaddle – and at 1 hour 45 minutes without an interval, and with no re-admission if you leave the auditorium, it just goes on, and on, and on. There were numerous walk-outs (and no doubt a number of people sitting with their legs crossed as even a toilet break was not permitted).

Technically brilliant, and all the usual Vandekeybus/Ultima Vez idioms were there: tension, conflict, physical risks and impulses, body versus mind, intuition, passion. But in TrapTown it is somehow not enough.


Featured image (top): TrapTown, photo by Danny Willems



This Magic Life: Forced Entertainment cast their spell

Forced Entertainment’s latest theatre piece plunges us into a whirling world of mock-magic as we witness three performers perpetually failing at a mind-reading feat. Real Magic, premiering at the Attenborough Centre of Creative Arts (ACCA) in Brighton, sees two of Forced Entertainment’s founder members, Richard Lowdon and Claire Marshall, joined by Jerry Killick, who has worked with the group on numerous earlier shows including Bloody Mess and And on the Thousandth Night, the latter also being presented in the same week at the ACCA.

The three performers are dressed in bright yellow chicken outfits, and the show purports to be part mind-reading feat, part cabaret act, and part chaotic game show. One acts as presenter, one as contestant, the third is the ‘thinker’.  ‘So, the way it’s going to work is this – think of a word,’ says one fluffy yellow chicken to another. ‘Richard is thinking of word. What word is Richard thinking of, Claire?’ The third holds a large piece of cardboard to the audience with a word written large on it. Caravan. Algebra. Sausage. ‘Is the word Hole, Richard? No, the word’s not hole, Claire’.  Second and third guesses are permitted: ‘Money?’ Electricity?. Inevitably, the correct words are never guessed, the same few incorrect answers are always given. There is struggle and comical repetition. Roles are swapped.

After some time, our three protagonists become bored. How to keep going? Why keep going?  Is Jerry feeling good? Is Jerry feeling confident? They are trying to be nice, to keep it all going, to be part of the party. Optimism – a consensual conspiracy to keep going. There is count-down ticking. There is canned laughter. Chicken costumes become half on and half off.  They are down to their underwear. A glittery gold dress is  hauled on. A suit and shaggy wig is brought into play. It’s vividly monotonous, yet varied, constantly evolving – recycling in a mutated way. It is gentle in its audaciousness. We want them to be a winner for us. We laugh at Jerry’s enactment of Rodin’s The Thinker, thinking so hard. Jerry is thinking all over Richard, yet Richard just does not get it.  I reflect on how sometimes the answer to our predicament is right in front of us, and we just cannot see it. We try to do our best,  try to play the game, to help each other, to be part of something, yet fail and fail again and become more and more exhausted, finding and clinging to little strategies to keep going. When words, interactions and guesses fail, a strategy they have is resorting to ‘the dance’, with which to bide time. The dance is done in a row, dressed in the fluffy yellow chicken costumes.




Real Magic is a super-brutal machine that is inescapable, the rules of which cannot be changed. We are gripped by the chaos and earnestness, witnessing constant attempts and resilience, time and time again, variations within a theme. It’s daft, it’s relentless. A game of expectation and anticipation. A constellation of tensions that become shifting forces within the moment.  We see different roles we play in life, the varying balances and interplay we have with each other. The different costumes that we put on. Even if  they did get the answer correct, what would they win? There are no prizes to be won. Is there a hope they would be better off? More valued? Celebrated? Why don’t we, the audience, call out the correct answer? It is written right there on the card in front of us. Why does it keep our interest? We want to witness a winner? We ‘enjoy’ the awkwardness? We know it is just a game?  The audience are riveted. The audience are smiling, complicit to this game of never getting it right, more and more reckless. We believe in them, and somehow invest in them. Even with help, they still get it wrong. Perpetually starting again. We believe in their belief. The three players are a set of individuals who somehow thrive, and find their way, within a structure that they cannot change. The event exists as a real event that is unfolding. There is a fierceness, breaks and twists and turns, and plays of language and words, solutions and gifts coming from the interplays. Irreconcilable differences.

It becomes an emotional journey, watching this show. It opens up stories within your own life. Repeat and repeat again. Each day we start and end and go through sets of actions and interactions in our various roles. Can anything really be changed? We are enchanted, we are bothered, our attention shifts and drifts away, we make connections and disconnections, we zoom in and out of focus, we laugh, we squirm, we reflect on something about our own lives and attitudes, will we ‘get it right’ this time? Even if the answer is staring us in the face? Arrive at a particular point? Gain something? Be better, be wiser, be richer, be more loved? We are surprised,  riveted and somehow delighted. Futile attempts and fade in memory and hope teases us. We live, and we live with limits…

Director Tim Etchells, in the post-show Q & A, says that the first third of Real Magic is a reconstruction of the feeling – how it all felt, to be making & improvising this work. Like other Forced Entertainment shows, Real Magic although appearing so in the moment, is not improvised, It is very tightly scripted/choreographed, and there are targets to hit to make it work.


Forced Entertainment: Showtime. Photo Hugo Glendinning

Forced Entertainment: Showtime. Photo Hugo Glendinning


Real Magic is another in the long, ongoing series of Forced Entertainment shows that uses the tropes of ‘variety’ ‘showbusiness’ and ‘theatricality’ – former examples include Showtime (1996), First Night (2001), Spectacular (2008), and The Thrill of It All (2010).

I have seen many of their shows and installations/artworks, from the brilliant Speak Bitterness of 1994 onwards, and I notice in all Forced Entertainment’s work the examination of the delicacy of life, the exploration of the interplay of the individual with other people and forces – connections, disconnections, twists, turns. Cycles and repetitions. Having hope, yet optimism being stunted. Living, acting, and operating within a system – and always the question of how much agency we really have. Forced Entertainment make performances that excite, question, challenge, and entertain their audience, with a penchant for confusion as well as laughter. The company explore what theatre and performance can mean in contemporary life , in a continuing process of conversation and negotiation.



Forced Entertainment: And on the Thousandth Night.
Photo Hugo Glendinning


And on the Thousandth Night is an older piece, created in 2000 for Festival Ayloul in Beirut, drawing on one section from Forced Entertainment’s epic twenty-four hour performance Who Can Sing A Song to Unfrighten Me? (1999). Taking its title and part of its inspiration from One Thousand and One Nights, And on… is presented at ACCA as a 6-hour durational work, exploring the live relationship between a story and its public, and between a story and its tellers.

As the audience enter, the eight performers – all six founder members of Forced Entertainment, including director Tim Etchells, plus Jerry Killick and Nicki Hobday – are ambling about the stage, like pre-match boxers, each wrapped up in a simple red swathe of fabric  that represents a regal cloak. Each wears a cardboard crown. As the audience settles, each performer takes a chair and they form an orderly line downstage, directly facing the audience. (This line of chairs downstage is another Forced Ents trope, repeated in many shows.)

And so it starts. Once upon a time there was a king, who had three daughters…  Stop – the narrative is interrupted. Once upon a time there was a queen with six sons… Stop. Once upon a time there was a speck of dust, floating in a room, for years… They each listen intently to each other as a story is begun, then cut short, the moment being taken to change course. Some performers retreat upstage to take refreshment, but stay involved through their intent listening. Sometimes a story is extraordinary. Another one is just daft, another familiar, another horrific, another banal. Sometimes the narrative rises up very quickly, and then is done with swiftly: Once upon a time there was a shadow that had nothing to attach itself to.

Can the eight performers deliver every time? Will they run out of story? Be interrupted just at a crucial point of the tale? Stay energised? Remain articulate? The work feeds on folk and fairy stories, news events, and personal experiences. Tales help us better understand the way of the world that we live in, yet we can never get to the end, nor arrive at a conclusion. I stayed for the full six hours, wondering how something that wouldn’t permit an ending, would end. In fact, the six hours ends quite beautifully, like a steam train slowing down and arriving back into its station. Once upon a time there was a heart that did not stop beating. Once upon a time there was an ear that did not stop listening. Once upon a time there was an eye that did not stop looking. Once upon a time there was a pulse that did not stop pulsing. Once upon a time there was a brain that did not stop thinking. Stop. The eight storytellers leave the stage, leaving behind their red capes and crowns, draped and disowned upon their chairs.

The performance is about absent things that you summon into the space. An audience coming together is a place of measuring. And on… works with a Music Hall-style direct address to the audience – and all the performers are all the time are listening to the story being told, their response seemingly making or breaking that story. The nature of storytelling, and an exploration of how we tell stories, is an ongoing line of research for Forced Entertainment, manifesting in very many different ways – from the stripped-down minimalism of The Travels to the exuberant organised chaos of The World in Pictures.

Seeing this classic show from the FE repertoire alongside the company’s latest work, Real Magic, is interesting. They are very different works, but it is easy to draw parallels; to see a continuum in their work. Both are performed direct to audience, have similarities in form, a sense of play, being ‘in the moment’ of creating and breaking, using kitsch theatrical dressing-up costumes and cardboard. Both inspire feelings of being challenged; provoking questions, causing confusion alongside delight and wonder. Both leave you with a feeling of having been entertained and moved. Both share emotional landscapes that never ever resolve. Most crucially, both fulfil the company’s aim of creating work that is ‘something that needs to be live’. Haunting, enticing, surprising, as ever, Forced Entertainment proves to be a curious joy and a magical gift.



Forced Entertainment: First Night. Photo Hugo Glendinning


Forced Entertainment started working together in 1984. They are an ensemble of six actor-creators: Robin Arthur, Tim Etchells (artistic director), Richard Lowdon (designer), Claire Marshall, Cathy Naden, and Terry O’Connor. Their work embraces theatre, performance, gallery installations, site-specific pieces, books, photographic collaborations, and videos. 

They are based in Sheffield, and tour worldwide. 

Forced Entertainment: Real Magic premiered at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts (ACCA) 10 & 11 November 2016. Miriam King attended on Friday 11 November.

And on the Thousandth Night, a durational performance, was presented on 12 November, 4pm to 10pm.

 As part of the Forced Entertainment residency, the ACCA programme also included a talk with Forced Entertainment’s artistic director Tim Etchells and Dr Sara Jane Bailes of the University of Sussex (12 November 2016), and a screening of Uncertain Fragments, a video essay by Hugo Glendinning and Tim Etchells about the company’s work, focused around the creation of their 2001 show First Night. 

Featured image (top): Forced Entertainment: Real Magic. This and all other photos are by longterm Forced Entertainment collaborator Hugo Glendinning.





Kate Darach - Moon Tales - Photo by Daniel Stevens

Kate Darach: Moon Tales

Kate Darach - Moon Tales - Photo by Daniel StevensLike a classic old lady from the woods in a fairy tale, wicker basket on arm, headscarf, dark shawl, and in front of a circular projection of twigs brushing a cloudy sky, Lizzie addresses us. She tells us she is ‘old now, of no use but to tell stories’. She lets us in on ancient-sounding bits of wisdom such as ‘the grain knows what the wheat doesn’t,’ that ‘the grain is waiting quietly,’ and how we are ‘leading tiny lives that flicker, and then are gone.’ Then… before our very eyes, Lizzie transforms, shedding her scarf, shawl, and crone attire to become a contemporary girl. This is a moment of magic.

Moon Tales is a solo show, performed by its writer Kate Darach. Inspired by the old names for the full moons, from Hunter’s Moon to Harvest Moon, these thirteen interwoven vignettes are female voices from across time and place, telling bittersweet universal stories from the ‘burbs of Johannesburg to medieval Yorkshire, eloquent, dark, sometimes funny; tales of lifelong secrets, sex, regret, desire, hope. Female portraits – many of them linked by the theme of motherhood – capturing the diversity, commonality, and eternity of the female experience.

So now we meet a young woman who likes men, and she likes sex… she knows what she likes and how to get it. She doesn’t need a man to fulfil any void, instead she demands men ‘Fill me, not fulfil me.’ We progress to listening to a woman in therapy, talking about her pregnant sister in law, and how she wants to ask to have that baby, as she knows her sister in law doesn’t want it. There are swift transitions, with changes of projected image onto the moonlike screen, for instance the full moon juxtaposed with a tower block at night. A snippet of a tune is played and within it there’s a change of character. Now we meet Bad Kitty, a chair used as her computer screen. Kitty announces ‘ you pay, we play, Kitty’ll display.’ Yet her ‘business hours’ are interrupted by a phone call from her mother.

Moon Tales’ characters are bold, succinct and evocative. Other memorable women we meet include the young Indian bride-to-be, who speaks of ‘flowers rotting away invisibly, and you cannot tell’. She transforms into Mary in the stable; into the young gay woman, accompanied by a Smiths tune and projection of cherry blossom, which slips into an image of a human embryo to accompany the woman who self-harms who wishes to be held and helpless. She speaks of the emergency flare that is sent up, which doesn’t mean that the ship is sinking, and states ‘I win, when I lose.’ The final character returns us to Lizzie once more… not in her hunched crone form, as the young maiden, full of hope and possibility.

The writing is magnificent – clear and essential, bringing to life multidimensional lives, different faces and fears, loves and desires… and aloneness. The performance is stunning in its vivacity, astuteness, and commitment to character.

I felt that the staging – in raked seating looking down onto the performance – wasn’t arranged in the best way for the show as we were. Something more intimate would have supported the material better: it’s less powerful being told stories when you’re being looked up to, and in such a large space, a microphone would have been of benefit.

BabaFish - Expiry Date - Photo by Sigrid Spinnox

BabaFish: Expiry Date

BabaFish - Expiry Date - Photo by Sigrid Spinnox

Amid a stage jam-packed with wooden and mechanical bits and bobs, a grey-haired bearded man rests in the shadows. There’s graceful music, lights are low; a solitary red striped satin upholstered chair, elegant, alone, and magnificent, is lit glowingly. There comes the sound of air, of wind, meandering through the beautiful music; something forboding, trickles, crackles, subtly threatens. Warm lights illuminate a stage painstakingly arranged with large domino-like blocks, creating curves and causeways. The grey-haired man is more visible now, sitting comfortably, reflectively, at a small table. He’s writing.

The slim blocks fall, tumble, and set off the Heath Robinson-like contraptions. A large bulbous glass jar spills grains of sand, like an egg timer, time literally running out. The set, within its human constructs, has a life and character of its own.

Expiry Date, a union of circus and contemporary dance theatre, reflects the old man’s final hour as he grasps, grapples, and glowers with and through his scattered memories. The older man, Joseph (played by Thomas Hoeltzel) is joined by a younger man (Jef Stevens), who plays a remembered version of the same character, plus two young women: Laura Laboureur, who plays Joseph’s long-lost and much-loved wife; and Swedish-born circus-theatre artist Anna Nilsson,who is also the co-director, and founder of BabaFish. She plays a kind of wandering spirit: perhaps the ‘essence’ of the piece, a mixture of the characters’ wrangling emotions, or the mischievous body or illness that just will not behave itself? Ultimately, she is the spirit of death itself.

As the dominos fall, balls run down tracks, and pendulums swing, we notice Laboureur, inside one of the large contraptions to the rear of the stage, resplendent in a beautiful wedding dress, and singing like a caged bird. Meanwhile, Nilsson does a sinewy, contorted dance, seemingly naked (in fact, in flesh-coloured underwear), while Joseph watches, in his burgundy cardigan, hands in pockets. Her hair falls over her face, turning her into something other than human, as she scampers on all-fours, her body back-to-front. She twists and turns across the floor, her limbs making extraordinary shapes.

Next, Joseph watches as his younger self and his wife play out the struggles of love and marriage in an intense duet of pushing, pulling and wrestling. This builds into shouting (in a babel of languages), but is then resolved in a beautiful sinuous duet. Later in the piece, I enjoy the dynamic of a lovely arm-dance section, where all four performers are ‘stacked’ head and shoulders above each other, on and above the chair.

Throughout, there’s ample beautiful music, including twanging sci-fi sounds as Nilsson contorts herself across the floor; and an amusing and surreal live rendition of the Habanera from Carmen performed by Laboureur (L’amour est un oiseau rebelle / Love is a rebellious bird’), plus some virtuosic juggling and white ball manipulation from Jef Stevens, which is both poignant and lyrical.

The show is created by Nilsson and co-director Sara Lemaire, and co-devised by the cast. The extraordinary set was created in collaboration with Jan Nilsson, Anna’s engineer father.

Choreography is by Hun-Mok Jung, who is known in the UK through her performance last year with the company Peeping Tom, in 32 Rue Vandenbranden.

There are moments of illumination and love. It’s these small, ephemeral flashes of ecstasy and beauty that make us alive, says Nilsson in her director’s notes. Do we ever at the time acknowledge the power of a moment destined to become a mere memory?

Expiry Date is very well crafted and constructed, yet somehow, never quite takes off for me. I watch, yet never quite enter into it. To be admired rather than loved.

Our Bodies, Our Selves: SPILL at National Theatre Studio

Snail trails, bear-baiting, and Rice Krispies. Miriam King witnesses three performance works at National Theatre Studio on the last day of SPILL Festival 2015

The durational Snail Portrait, performed over four hours, is a new immersive work combining performance, visuals, text and installation, inspired by the Persian phrase ‘khane be doosh’, meaning ‘home on your back’. Shabnam Shabazi creates an aural and visual ‘listening room’, exploring what it means, or more like, how it feels to be, without a permanent home, yet always carrying your past with you. Going into the room, the lights are low, there is a strong, pleasant perfume, and the striking image of an immobile, horizontal, resting person within a perspex case, their body and all about them swathed in trailing ivy, with large snails being carefully placed on the exposed areas of flesh. The lower part of the moist case contains lily plants. Returning later, many many snails are now finding their way, and leaving their glistening trails across the belly, face, nose, closed eyes, arms, legs, hands of the woman. The soundtrack tells me snails are hermaphrodite, have no eyes, no hearing, yet a strong sense of smell, and breathe through their skin. They, in turn, are on this woman’s skin, creating glistening trails; and her breath, deep in her belly, rises and falls with their searching forms. I could watch and watch and watch. The soundtrack is rich – texts that are partly autobiographical, partly factual – and I sit silently to witness and listen.These snails, gentle and fluid, their path in constant flux, sensing where to go, carrying their homes on their backs, their shelter. It’s calm, it’s otherworldly. A place to be, to sense, and to contemplate.

Jamal image by Tara Yarahmadi

Jamal Harewood: The Privileged. Photo by Tara Yarahmadi

Jamal Harewood: The Privileged. Photo by Tara Yarahmadi


In sharp contrast, Jamal Harewood presents The Privileged. On the floor amongst scattered KFC pieces, is a polar bear called Cuddles. Or rather, a human wearing a polar bear outfit, and we, a 50-strong audience, have between us ten envelopes, containing instructions. Through these instructions we are led, perhaps coerced, into exercising power over him. For example, there are instructions for us as a group to nominate someone to wake Cuddles up, progressing through to removing his costume, then feeding him, then preventing him overeating. We, as a group, decide what to do, and people elect to do it. Yet once the grubby white costume is off – and this takes a while, as the first person who gets up to do this cannot achieve this in a ‘kind’ way, someone else takes over and rips the costume off in a forceful way, which results in audience/group members leaving the ‘enclosure’ – we’re no longer dealing with someone play-acting a polar bear, lumbering around, sniffing and pawing at our bags, but instead a physically powerful and vulnerable man: no longer within the funny playsuit and oversized white head, yet naked and cowering within his black skin. He is vulnerable, at the whim of our decisions, yet this whole thing is something he has set up, has cleverly written. We, the audience, are the vulnerable ones. People got very choked up, some had to take a walk outside of the building, others were in tears, as it was very challenging to watch and witness what followed. I didn’t want to leave, as I wanted the situation resolved, yet to resolve something, that involves having to ‘do’ something, which can then create conflict. Like two sides of a coin: to resolve something, or to let the situation evolve? To let it play out, a natural evolution – but by whose rules does it play out? In the post-show discussion, self facilitated and audience led, and without the artist present, one of the main questions was: at what point did the performance change from something playful, a game that we were all party to, to something uncomfortable, something disturbing? Some felt ‘bad’ and tearful. Others thought we were all complicit in an agreed action. It was a performance after all, created by the artist – not real life. Others felt ‘responsible’. Some felt that although this was a performance, the artist’s emotions were very real. There is historical context here, with echoes of the works of Marina Abramovic, and other artists who have created scenarios where audience members are invited to engage with the artist’s body. Since those historic performances, the issue of ‘consent’ has moved to the forefront of discussion.


Debbie Guinanne The Machinist. Illustration by Pato Bosich / DARC

Debbie Guinanne The Machinist. Illustration by Pato Bosich / DARC for SPILL Festival


The Machinist, Circa 1986, created and performed by Debbie Guinnane is a 100-minute durational solo performance with concerns over body dysmorphia and eating disorders. There are four varied performance ‘stations’ containing everyday items such as a large fridge and other domestic stuff. The audience are sat on the floor or leant against walls. At some points the artist seems to be near naked. At other points, she is wearing white overalls. There’s a soundtrack talking about Karen Carpenter (who had anorexia and died young) playing as she pours Rice Krispies into a large bowl and adds a large quantity of milk till the cereal brims up and spills over the floor. Now she’s wearing a fox fur around her neck, then across the top of her head, as she sits on a basketball and kind of dry humps the breakfast cereal, which creates a satisfying snap, crackle, pop!  There’s some captivating laboured breath work and a fair amount of fluid being dribbled from her mouthI was longing for some special moments that moved me, yet in the half-hour I was in there, this didn’t happen.I didn’t have too good a view of this piece, which may have affected my judgement as I was unable to see the detail, and hence didn’t feel that drawn into the work. . At times the soundscape was far more compelling than anything I could see. There were some strong images that that were rich and multi-layered, and would make great photographic compositions – yet as a live piece, it didn’t really move me. I longed to return to the snails – the highlight of a varied and thought-provoking day, over which I am still musing.


Featured image (top) is of Snail Portrait by  Shabnam Shabazi. Photo by the artist.

SPILL Festival of Performance, ran 28 October to 8 November 2015. See