I do not know how to write, how to begin. I feel I need to be as precise in my choices as Vincenzi has been with his. Form feels important. I pick up someone else’s text about Luxuriant, the previous Vincenzi work from the Operation Infinity, the body of work from which this event emerges. The text has been left in the green room/bar: it is smart and formed and difficult to hold onto, much like what I have just seen. But yet I am still in too much of a strange state to manage anything quite as considered as that.
Everything about King Real feels decided, chosen: from the moment you get past the ticket office and the minor confusion to find my name, up until the final moments of the night. The green room, quiet at the beginning of the night, with a lone man in a hood dancing, sitting, talking. A screen on his chest looping footage I can’t quite see, next to a screen showing more grainy footage I can’t quite make out of “Live streaming from Club Extinction” where people with large, lumpy bums dance, wander around and hoola hoop. A bar man in a suit. The walk to the entrance to the auditorium, silent security guards, real security guards, real or planted rubbish? Music coming form a parked van. A wet and windblown glitter curtain hanging from concrete in a flashing red light. Torn posters for a 1933 Troup Mabuse show, feedback of sound from the auditorium.
The auditorium is a different world, glamour and precision. Even the full black bin-bags around fail to give a real sense of decay. Shiny black sculptures. Red velvet. Black shiny glitter curtains. Everything flickers, everything shimmers. Shadows, sound, the performers bodies, caught in a loop of their own concentration for hours. Three hours. I take a seat and sit hypnotised, semi-catatonic. The performers float up to the top of the stage, elegant bodies magnetically pulled forwarded to give physical form to ‘the voice’. It is almost an hour before I am even aware that I grasp almost no meaning in the words of the disembodies voice. The words wash through me. Back and forth. An occasional word: “prithee”, “tempest”, “Reagan”, or a particular taste to a turn of phrase reminds that this is Shakespeare. And the sound is everywhere and the sound moves. Sound behind me, or to the side, echoes of noise form back-packs carried by women who walk at the pace of sleep-walkers. Somnambulists.
The audience does not cough, not once as far as I can tell. They are on the whole so still that some are asleep.
I have slept through some of a previous instalment of Operation Infinity, and remember the deliciously frustrating feeling of not being able to drag myself back into consciousness, the performance coming and going in waves. But this time I am completely awake. Ridiculously alert. I wonder again why I am so drawn to this single, shifting image, by the cocooning sound. Hypnotise me! Send me into a trance! Give me a chance to be outside of my own head!
Time passes. My catatonic state fades a little, my mind come back to me and I begin to notice things. I am suddenly free to move, to watch to see the audience, to see the up-lighting hitting the rig above and curving shadows in arcs across the ceiling , which I realise for the first time is curved like whales' ribs. I walk to the back and watch, standing, leaning. I watch the man in charge of the technical things and read the words that roll up the screen autocue style. The words roll endlessly, white on black, gaps of space for pauses. Little momentary voids. Only when reading can I hear the words. Only then do I have space to remember this is Lear, to see the black shimmering glitter curtains as falling rain and the black slope as a hill upon a heath. Everything is visible if you want it to be. If I want I am free to peek under the table and see the strings and pulleys that move it.
And Vincenzi himself hovers at the back or in corners. Vincenzi in a dinner jacket. Whilst at the front, beneath the stage the mini-figure of Mabuse, the black and white Fritz Lang character, whose possession of a troupe of out-of-work performers is the frame that holds the Operation Infinity project. Mabuse the controlling figure, the spirit that inhabits and posseses, that plans and controls. And the hovering Vincenzi, watching, seeing. I feel his concentration, his attention.
At 10pm, following a real need to leave the auditorium for some cold air and something sharp and alcoholic, the barman asks me in a disarmingly warm way “how things are going”. I reply warmly, surprised to find myself ready to chat after all my time sat silently in a semi-hypnotised state. The bar is warm. The man in the hood sits in the middle on his chair, and I walk around him, to get to the bar. I drink my G&T poured by the smiling barman in a suit, whilst behind me a man sits half-naked and hooded. Hooded and half-naked for hours. 3 Hours. As the barman pours (“Brecon gin or Gordons? Er… let me check. 40p more”) I look down at the bar and see a sheet of paper with a list of phrases on it, openers, replies. Fourth or fifth down in “how are things going?”. The looped real, un-real, the continual felt hand of Mabuse/Vincenzi in every moment. Nothing left entirely to chance.
“The modern dance will end in 17 minutes” a voice over tells me in the green room/bar. Back in.
Down to the bus
Into the town
Our poor boy
Can’t get around
Eight fifty five
Down at the show
She leaves early
He’ll never know
‘Cause poor old boy
Believes in chance
He’ll never get
The modern dance
Pere Ubu ( song taken from the programme note)
And a rewrite. Version 2:
Loops. Everything looping and everything tightly controlled and formed. Loops into infinity.
Loops of watching, performing: watching the performers, watching the audience and being watched back, watching the lights, being watched by a woman with a camcorder and a backpack full of cables. Covert watching, obvious watching.
Loops of sound and words: words of King Lear upon the rainy heath on repeat, loops of understanding and meaning, loops of translation from English and out and back in, loops of sound from backpacks on the backs of women who walk amongst us like sleep-walking imitations of audience members. Loops of control, Mabuse, Vincenzi, an audience free to leave or move or sleep and to find out anything they want to know. Loops of desire and wanting. Wanting to be hypnotised, swept out of myself wanting to know and to work out the structure, wanting to fall into timeless catatonia, wanting to be outside in the cold or drinking something sharp and alcoholic, with rich, spicey chocolate. Loops of awareness, slipping in and out. Loops of performers being pulled forward and back, rising to the top of the hill upon the stage and floating back. The loops of their gestures. Loops of writing as I cut this review up and rewrite it entirely from beginning to end, not wanting to publish it but instead to keep writing it. The loops of Operation Infinity in which I often feel the audience has been invited in order to loop their image back into the next stage of the project. Infinite loops. Loops of comfort and discomfort.
Troupe Mabuse: Gary Clarke, Kath Duggan, Valentina Formenti, Luis Guerra, Peter Mills, Tim Spooner, Theo Cowley
King Real: Amanda Hadingue
Fake Audience: Katalin Bresztyenszky, Beatrice Bukantyte, Maria Aniela Czajewska, Jenny Duncan, Kateina Kyriacou
Surveillance: Francesca Dadliani
Sound Designer: William Saunders
Recording Engineer: John Hannon from No
Light Design: Chahine Yavroyan
The Green Room
The Bar Tender Lloyd: Edd Hobbs
Coming Again: Leif Halverson
Ambient: Luke Soneham, Tanya Carvalho, David Bowie, Richard Strauss, Simon Vincenzi
For Operation Infinity
Direction and Design: Simon Vincenzi
Production Manager: Rachel Shipp
Producer: Nicky Childs, ArtsAdmin
Project Assistant: Roger Irvin Dunn
Security: Lauren Davies for Club Extinction for Oitipimar Security
Website: Oli Evans
Programme Notes: Frances Scott