Reviews Performance Published 3 November 2014

Camera Lucida

Barbican Pit ⋄ 28th October 8th November 2014

What does it all mean?

Maddy Costa

What does it mean?

What does it all mean?

A sign at the entrance: an unfamiliar frequency: you may feel this in odd places: such as fingertips. Inside, a wide, inky space. Inside that, a square of fluorescent light. Inside that, a table that glows, wholly unnatural. The air hums and burrs. It flickers and flashes. And then a voice in the dark, anxious. Show yourselves, please. Speak with us, please. We are all seekers at the truth. Come through with the evidence. Please.

What does it mean?

What does it all mean?

A television screen, raised high, bright red cords spilling from it like veins, pooling then stretching across the stage. Genderless figures, encased in black, rigid at small desks. Fingers outstretched: bodies vibrating: like tuning forks: ringing a note just beyond human hearing. This is a séance; these bodies, the mediums. And on the other side, there is:

//A computer programme, struggling to fulfil an impossible command: Immanentize the eschaton. Code streams across the television screen, searching for the sequence that offers a way out. From the binaries that trap people: the language that binds people: the cultural operating system that imprisons people in conservatism: in what is, rather than what can be.

//A woman, in the dark, at the periphery of vision. She crosses the stage to the other periphery, drifting, purposeless, serene. Her dress is 1930s, her hair sculpted into Marcel waves. She doesn’t fit. She fits.

//A woman, in the television screen, loud, stark and staring. She speaks of the death of her mother: refusal to accept: longing to continue the conversation: finding the time there never was in life. Disembodied, she is the most warmly human figure on stage.

//A piano, no player, singing.

//An audience. Silent: thrumming: watchful. Hello, everybody on the other side. Can you break through?

What does it mean?

What does it all mean?

And on the other side, there are voices. Male, female, American, British, young, old, articulate, elusive, past, prescient. Each one takes hold of a body: controls its movement: shifts its vibration. One of them speaks about speech, language, as a coding breakthrough; and the birth of virtual reality. One of them speaks about thought, troubled that so many think the way others think they should, instead of thinking freely. One of them addresses online relationships, their chatter merging into noise. And at regular intervals, with increasingly extravagant and comic frustration, one of them asks:

What does it mean?

What. Does it ALL. MEAN?

For some, Camera Lucida will mean nothing. Or at least, its meanings will be evasive. It speaks most directly of death: the quiet pained wish to prolong that person’s presence: the desire to keep talking. But between its hums and burrs, its flickers and flashes, Camera Lucida addresses relationships more widely: how we interact online; how we police each other’s existence (particularly gender expression); how we gather to sit in a darkened room and share a communication. Theatre as a careful tuning in of minds.

Eighteen months ago, Dickie Beau curated a striking week of performances as part of a Forest Fringe residency at the Gate. Camera Lucida, the first ensemble piece he’s directed, shares many of the qualities of that season: the intelligence, precision and wit with which he traced lines of thought and argument between disparate material; the elegance of staging; queer expression, humour and surprise. He is reshaping lipsync from cabaret turn to fully fledged stage medium, using it to speak strangely and resonatingly of how we listen and absorb what we hear.

Another strand of thinking in Camera Lucida – there are so many – relates to the abstract associations that attach themselves to words, limiting meaning. Beau makes the possibilities of lipsync seem limitless: disassociating speech from speaker, he invites his audiences to make their own connections to a thrilling complexity of ideas. To find for themselves what it all means.



Camera Lucida Show Info

Directed by Dickie Beau

Written by Dickie Beau

Cast includes Paddy Glynn





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