Friday, April 23, 2010

PuSh Festival Post II (again): The Show Must Go On

Again, I am sure...nevermind...

And The Show Must Go On (from the PuSh Festival website):

“A cult figure on the international dance scene, Jérôme Bel brings us The Show Must Go On—a delightfully subversive game of anticipation and expectation that blurs the line between spectator and spectacle. With an illustrious group of 20 local individuals, accompanied by a D.J. with an extensive collection of pop tunes, fans of last year’s That Night Follows Day will find in Jérôme Bel’s masterpiece a truly kindred spirit—an evening that lovingly combines humour, nostalgia and human frailty, with the immediacy of live performance. The Show Must Go On has been cast in Vancouver to unite a community of performers in honour of the new SFU Woodward’s. Join us for a glimpse into the re-birth of one of our city’s most treasured landmarks.”

When The Show Must Go On premièred in 2001 at the Théâtre de la Ville, Paris, some members of the audience clapped and sang along, others stormed the stage demanding their money back, and one critic slapped another in the face—a mixed critical reception, you might say. While I certainly approve of Bel’s original choreographic piss-taking, I question the show’s continuous touring. I realise that “each night is different.” So goes live performance. But The Show Must Go On appears somewhat drained of its provocative vigour. It is a show of moment, not repetition, and its moment has passed it seems. What is more, critics appear bent on maintaining its subversive potential by turning every misstep into some sort of theoretical commentary: It is boring/it is a commentary on boredom, it is superficial/it is a commentary on superficiality, it is kitsch/it is a commentary on kitsch. Or maybe it is boring superficial kitsch? In Vancouver specifically, the show has been touted a new beginning for the Woodward’s theatre—progressive and community-building. (Note: the night I attended Vancouver’s insular arts community made up most of the audience.) Really? Coming together over largely American pop-music, which has transformed musical craft into yet another capitalist mode of production? I mean, the reason we can all sing along is because the music industry “spectacularly” (in the Debordian sense) drills the songs into our consciousness. Then again, it is probably just a commentary on capitalist proliferation via music.

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