Buildings tell stories. This is a truth that a generation squeezed into ever more expensive flatshares are only too acutely aware of. We leave traces and fingerprints everywhere we go. Some of my favourite books were abandoned in a hasty getaway from a bug infested houseshare, I left one glittery silver heel in my best friend’s apartment while drunk and she promptly moved out before I could swipe it back. I once found an annotated copy of The Marriage of Figaro under my bed in one of the poorest, grimmest buildings I’ve ever lived in and could only wonder what bohemian soul had left it behind.
It’s this feeling of connection passed on through brick and mortar that performer Jolie Booth wrestles with in HIP, the story of her encounter with Anne Clarke through the Brighton home they indirectly shared. Anne lived and died in the house many years ago, and the detritus of her life was still cluttering the place when Jolie and her mates broke in and declared themselves legal squatters in 2002. Quickly the detritus – letters, drawings, spices and curiously, an unidentified hip bone – became Booth’s obsession. It’s an obsession that has produced overwhelming dividends, as Anne’s life proved to be one of great passion, art and heartbreak. Indeed, Booth manages to compartmentalise the woman into ‘artist’, ‘hedonist’, ‘traveller’ and ‘lover’ and asks us to select which side of her we want to explore in our hour together, lamenting that “everyone always picks artist and hedonist” – an indication of the sensibilities of fringe audiences, perhaps.
Booth’s bond with Anne Clarke is genuinely remarkable. She bears an uncanny resemblance to Anne’s daughter, many of the great milestones of their lives match up, and Anne’s untimely death from presumed alcoholism has driven Booth to make changes in her own life. All this she tells us candidly, unvarnished, with the help of projector slides and timelines, twiglets and shots of tequila. HIP is a love letter from one woman to another through the veins of a broken old house in Brighton.
What’s missing from the formula then, is Booth herself. While she waxes lyrical about Anne’s strength and vibrancy and creativity with unabashed admiration, she dwindles into the background of her own story. So focussed is she on conveying to us the magnificent mirage of Anne Clarke, she doesn’t share herself. I delighted in the counter cultural rock star who opened an occult bookshop and had poems written for her and vanished from the world in a slew of letters and cigarette smoke, but I wondered about spunky twenty something who broke the windows of Anne’s Brighton home and defiantly squatted her way into her story.
HIP was on as part of the Vault Festival 2017. Click here for more details.