Blow Off is an important and necessary piece of theatre. It declares itself as guerella-gig-theatre, but AJ Taudevin’s project is driven by a similar sort of energy to Alice Birch’s Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again also taking place at Traverse 1 this August. Urgent, feminist, mouthy and angry, Blow Off is a lyrical depiction of an anonymous woman with a mission, a heightened examination of the moments before an explosion, a run up to what might be an act of suicide bombing in a western city. From the bomber’s point of view. By deliberately witholding any factual information about the protagonist except that she is a she, Taudevin seems to be implying that entitlement to such an act lies with any woman in the world today. And this message is encoded in the very opening of the piece itself.
The choice of format gives the artist an opportunity to reclaim the wildly empowering attitude usually associated with male rock stars – and Taudevin really pulls this off, making the Iggy Pop-type of stroppy writhing on the floor look a hundred times more strong, sexy and stylish. At moments one could imagine what Amazonians would be like if they did rock’n’roll.
The package as a whole is deftly put together. Taudevin has worked collaboratively with an all female band on putting the lyrics and music together. Suspect Culture’s Graham Eatough has added a helping hand to the subtle direction and Simin Wilkinson’s lighting adds definition and effect to the overall dramaturgy of the piece.
But there are problems with Blow Off too. For one, it starts off as it means to go on – angry as can be, all the way through, no matter what – meaning that inevitably it runs out of scope to get any more powerful by the end. Secondly, the piece does not really capitalise on its here and now liveness, leaving the audience in a limbo somewhere far beyond the stage lights. And finally, its deliberate self-mystification results in the loss of one of the key traditional ingredients of rock’n’roll – authenticity. Taudevin’s stage act therefore becomes a victim of its own success, the conjured up Amazonian is formidable indeed, but not altogether believable. In other words, she never really touches our hearts.