I’m glad I was three gins down by the time I made it to Tricky Second Album because this is LATE NIGHT THEATRE in Caps; the kind that feels a bit like a party and a bit like a nightmare, the kind that you might dream about and wake up sweating.
In Bed With My Brother’s last show We Are Ian was a clowning rave about Manchester’s second summer of love, about 1989 and sticking it to Thatcher and big fish little fish and eating brown biscuits (a lot of digestives got thrown around). With Tricky Second Album they’re thinking about nightlife from before they were born again – specifically art electronic band KLF – but the energy’s different. Angrier, weirder, more anxious. The white boilersuits they clowned around in before have been replaced with black get-ups and fishnets. One of them is pregnant, and she milks it for every transgressive tableau she can (a consolation prize for being unable to fall to the floor at the drop of a pin).
KLF burned one million pounds on the Scottish island of Jura in 1994 – making a lot of people very angry. In Bed With My Brother’s show is inspired by this moment. Partly in its content, in the projected footage of KLF shows and the band’s interviews with baffled radio hosts. But even more so in the shape it takes. Every minute of it is filled with this punk energy, from the supersoakers trained on the audience, to the screaming, to the digs at theatre etiquette, to the bit where they lay into theatre’s holiest, most uncriticisable left-leaning authorities (I gasped). It’s about everything you’re not ‘meant’ to do on stage; about knowing something is destructive, bad for you, and will make people really angry… and doing it anyway.
It’s a kind of transgressive chaos which the fringe should be all about, but is painfully difficult to squeeze into the complex multidimensional jigsaw that is Edinburgh Fringe Inc. Its performers make much of the fact that an early show got cancelled so they could do a risk assessment, because its mix of drunk performers, electricity and water concerned the powers that be. They ran out of money for marketing. They weren’t allowed to set things on fire. Even the bits where nothing happen feel shocking, somehow, in an environment where every minute is paid for and must be filled.
Here, burning money becomes a perfect metaphor for doing experimental, confrontational work at the fringe; and as working class artists, In Bed With My Brother don’t really have money to burn. They skewer the middle class hypocrisy which says it’s okay to waste money on some things (art!) but not others. And they lean into the irony of being-a-part-of-what-they’re-critiquing, by playing with the audience, making them wait, by denying them the tidy late-night feel good ending that’ll send them out energised into the rain.
This is a very ‘last show’ piece. I sort of hope they do a Hannah Gadsby, whose ‘farewell to comedy’ Nanette turned out to be grand international proclamation of intent. But more than that, I hope they do exactly what they want to, because that’s the spirit of this show; it’s a massively enjoyable but furiously political ‘fuck you’ to an oppressively polite, neo-liberal theatre culture, and the tight limits it puts on how emerging artists should act and be.
Tricky Second Album is on at Pleasance Dome at 11pm as part of the Edinburgh fringe 2019. More info and tickets here.