Psychoactive Psyhows for November
Firstly at the Théâtre de Gennevilliers we have the show Drugs Kept Me Alive, from 23rd–25th November. And yes, just in case you were wondering, the show is about drugs. This monologue explores the existence of a man who is addicted to the full-on chemical high of living his life 24/7 on pharmaceuticals – and the paradox that the closer these bring him to death, the more drugs he then needs to keep him alive.
The director of Drugs Kept Me Alive, Jan Fabre, created the show specifically with its performer, Antony Rizzi, in mind. I guess that’s a good thing, right, Antony? Rizzi is principally a dancer, who joined the Frankfurt Ballet at the age of 20 and while there was assistant to the great William Forsythe. Despite this being a stage show, the fact that Rizzi is a dancer serves him well in expressing the effects of mind-bending drugs. Wearing a cone-shaped hat that suggests at once the Pet Shop Boys during their Go West era and Noddy, Rizzi owns the stage with his effervescent intensity. With a spurting foam–machine alongside him, Rizzi blows large soapy bubbles at the audience as he travels among the cloud-castles in his mind. “I’m addicted,” he says “to the biological warfare going on in my own body.”
Rizzi himself is a fairly off-the-wall performer. I often find that the titles of previous shows give a good indication of the artist’s style of work, and Rizzi’s back catalogue comprises I Am Open and Receptive to New Avenues of Income, An Attempt to Fail at Groundbreaking Theatre with Pina Arcade Smith, Cockroach Nightmare and Judy Was Angry. Does the director Fabre provide a more stable and traditional framework with which to harness the excesses of Rizzi? …Ah. Fabre’s previous shows include My Movements Are Alone Like Streetdogs, Parrots and Guinea Pigs, The Power of Theatrical Madness and an 8-hour play in which the actors lick yoghurt from the floor. If you needed any further evidence that Fabre is a true creative eccentric, feel free to look up more about the time that as a teenager he renamed his street Jan Fabre Street, attaching a commemorative plaque to his parents’ house declaring that “Here lives and works Jan Fabre”, and, if you have the stomach, what he did to the cats earlier this month in Antwerp ("To my horror, we found cats were being assaulted in the name of art," animal welfare executive chairman Luc Bungeneers said. "It went on for several hours.")
Putting Rizzi and Fabre together looks like it will be the theatrical equivalent of inserting a tube of Mentos in a bottle of cola. Aside from the daring originality of this piece, I am also looking forward to learning its message: both men are intelligent, and I am interested to know the role that they assign to death in this play.
In other news, I was rather disconcerted the other day to read that, according to Professor Nick Bostrom, Director of the Future of Humanity Institute and Professor of Philosophy at Oxford University, “there is a high probability we are currently living in a computer simulation.”
Well no-one told me. But then again I suppose they wouldn’t. But seeing as it appears there is now a strong chance that what I am living is not actually real, they could at least have had the compassion to leave out the compacted bathroom U-bend that I had to unblock last week.
Bostrum’s paper, along with the 1970s sci-fi television show Welt am Draht, written by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, inspired the show World of Wires. Created and directed by Jay Scheib, this show will be playing at MAC from 13th–17th November. World of Wires is essentially a murder mystery set in a computer-simulated alternative reality, a world in which illusion and reality are constantly churning, and where everything is hyper-heightened: noise, colour, action and emotions. This time however it is not chemicals that are altering the human brain, but technology. As one character explains to the confused protagonist: “I transferred your consciousness. It’s like waking up from a video game: it’s like playing Grand Theft Auto, and then realising the Grand Theft Auto car is parked in your driveway.”
World of Wires won Scheib an Obie for Best Direction earlier this year, and he is certainly experimental in his work. In World of Wires Scheib transgresses boundaries not just creatively but also in a literal sense: from the start to finish of the play he films the stage action with a hand-held camera that plays back in real-time to a screen over the stage. How’s that for feeling paranoid that someone’s watching you all the time.
So if your month of November is in need of a colourful injection of alternative realities, take a trip to either one of the shows and you’ll be laughing. Just make sure you’ve stopped by the time you’re on the bus on the way home. People might think you’re mad.
Drugs Kept Me Alive
Dir. Jan Fabre
Théâtre de Gennevilliers
23rd-25th Noveber 2012
World of Wires
Dir. Jay Scheib
Maison des Arts Creteil (MAC)
13th-17th November 2012