Freddie Opoku-Addaie has articulate hands. The kind of hands that seem to have eyes of their own. His hands moved the wooden hands around the stage, one at a time, carefully and with purpose, setting up crowds of voters, football fans, streets of people who watched him as he passed by. The precise pacing was established and set by the repetitive action of moving the hands to create new spaces and formations of meaning. We see Opoku-Addaie as he deals with groups of others: football team members who don’t pass him the ball, racist strangers on the street, us, the audience, watching him, raising our own hands to agree with him or not.
Opoku-Addaie mentions in the programme his childhood split between East London and Ghana and the importance of this influence upon his work. You open your hands to offer something to someone. To show that you are not concealing anything, that your are unarmed, that your intentions are benign. You raise your hands to be counted, to have a voice within a group. The scene with the racist stranger on the street asks us to re-read some of the other imagery in the work: Opoku-Addaie’s hands are browner than the light coloured wood of the carved hands. Are his raised hands surrender? Is he being searched? For me it also had the fortunate/unfortunate effect of making me lose about five minutes of the piece by reigniting the internal ranting and railing I was consumed by this morning in response to the British government’s announcement of new measures against immigration. I will try not to use this space for that, but… this idea that everyone needs to prove their immigration status to receive services has many issues, but also suggests that anyone who does not sound or look completely white-British will be asked far more frequently to prove their right to be here. For me this is an EDL attitude towards Britishness. Aaaaarrrrr. Anyway, in response to Opoku-Addaie re-enacting that almost clichéd “go back to where you came from” encounter, I was thrown back into myself for an internal rant. Who knows what happened in those five minutes on the stage? Not I.
Michael Mannion’s lighting design makes use of strong shadows to increase the crowds on stage still further, and to change the scale of Opoku-Addaie’s body. Graeme Miller’s use of sound is spare but intervenes when necessary. Opoku-Addaie’s movement and performance is strong and measured. In such a polished performance the few moments of awkwardness did stick with me: unconvincing pockets of text, or the thing Opoku-Addaie had to do with his hands to spin himself around on the potter’s wheels in what should have been an effortless glide.
There were a crowd of people on stage for A Show of Hands. A crowd of large carved wooden hands reaching upwards. The crowd of people who have helped shape this solo: the director/composer, designers, sculptors, and dramaturges and artists who have given feedback. None of the elements felt like they were there purely on a whim, or as decoration. The result of this for me is that the performance felt rich and full in a way that solos do not always.
Choreographer and Performer: Freddie Opoku-Addaie
Director and Sound Score: Graeme Miller
Designer: Mamoru Iriguchi
Sculptures: Friedel Buecking and Christine Kowal-Post
Lighting Designer: Michael Mannion
Production Manager: Anthony ‘Oz’ Osborne
Rehearsal Observations and Feedback: Mary Ann Hushlak, Rosemary Lee, Kewku Aacht, Dan Watson