Review

Franko B: Because of Love volume 1

Image credit: Hugo GlendinningImage credit: Hugo Glendinning

A thought on theatre

Trains and theatres are much alike: they physically command their dwellers into uniform postures (most seated, a few unlucky standing), they enforce direction (be it of motion or of view) and, in posh ones, you’ll find curtains. I love both, especially the potential they hold for cathedral-esque moments of populated silence.

The difference between trains and theatres is not the price of the ticket. It is what they ask of their seated populations. Are we invited to ignore and avoid each other or are we invited to watch, follow and engage with each other?

A thought on relationships

When watching Because of Love volume 1, I am aware of the difference between the calm of my seated body and the noise of my mind. My perception of any performance, against my wishes, is always affected by how well or how little I know the artist/s involved. Watching Franko B on stage I observe that I hold great respect for him, not only because of what I am watching but because of what I allegedly know of him. I project qualities onto him – artistry, experience, intelligence, control.

I once told a man in a club that when he danced I wanted to be still and to watch him, and when he was still I wanted to dance. Here in the theatre, I am aware of the clichéd timing of my fidgeting. When Franko B’s stillness becomes boring my mind begins to make noise and, distracted, I look over the lap of my neighbour to read his programme. As soon as I stop watching and start reading, something moves on stage. Typical.

A thought on collage

I appreciate the freedom of a collage. Because of Love volume 1 is a collage, both in Franko B’s words and in my own perception of it. This is not immediately obvious – who’s to know, at the beginning of the piece, whether what we see is one of many ‘scenes’ or whether the whole piece will continue like this. The first episode of Franko B’s collage is in itself a collage – a video projection of heavily edited archive footage of war, police brutality, catholic hierarchy, children playing with toy guns (batteries not included), happy families, people being shot against posts… it is brutal and moving. It is also very clear: the film points blame, it directs our focus, it is a composition (cutting from a hair spray advert to tanks firing water cannon to an ejaculating cock is both funny and cruel). Collages are compositions, they are not by definition random, but when watching a collage the search for narrative becomes softer than normal and the hunt for meaning becomes more creative. Watching Because of Love volume 1 as a collage, rather than a whole, eases my judgment and opens up my enjoyment of interpretation.

A thought on perception

As usual, I attend the post-show talk aware that it might completely change my perception of the piece, for better or for worse. In this case I realise that there is a gap of understanding between me and Franko B. This may be obvious (he is the artist, I am the audience) but it interests me as the difference is not between what I see and what Franko B has thought for me to see (the piece is is autobiographical, I see autobiography, fine) but it is between how much I see and how much he alleges to have delivered. He speaks freely about what things ‘are’ or what things represent on stage almost as though my own interpretations are not relevant (although I know he doesn’t think that). Is this difference problematic? Probably not, it is just a difference. After all, I do not believe that an artist needs to be able to give a great post-show talk for their work to stay standing.

However, I am glad that my neighbour (the one whose programme I was reading) did not hear the talk. The piece, he said, left him feeling calm. The talk would have revealed to him that the massive robot polar bear that danced on stage until the end of the piece until a technician turned it off was supposed to stop dancing long before and apparently caused mayhem and panic backstage. Not calm at all. Who’d have known?!

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