- Gareth K Vile
- 27 March 2019
Excluded voices are given a moment to speak
Buzzcut's evolution from annual festival to a programme of concentrated events based in the CCA – the 'double thrills' format – has seen its curatorship develop a distinctive identity, not least in its clear promotion of performances that would struggle to appear elsewhere in Scottish theatre. Their latest evening, which sprawled across the CCA, hiding one-to-one experiences in the clubroom, films in the cinema and, triumphantly, Rachael Young's Nightclubbing in the main theatre, demonstrated how effectively the team can draw together both local and national artists under a consistent theme, without becoming too polemical or obvious.
Project X – an arts collective based in Scotland – presented a series of short films around the building that served both to add a wider context to Nightclubbing and reveal how dance-film is becoming increasingly sophisticated in capturing the dynamic of choreography: the semi-formal discussions in the upstairs bar offered an opportunity to deepen the appreciation of Project X's intelligent and passionate championing of the performance practices of the African and Caribbean diaspora. But Racheal Young's performance was a natural climax to the evening, providing a heady mixture of retro-glamour, through aspects of Grace Jones' biography – and contemporary prejudice, exposing the treatment of three young black women, in 2015, by prejudiced club-owners.
Young's performance – supported by two musicians, Mwen Rukandema and Leisha Thomas, and a sign interpreter – draws on storytelling, the energy of a live gig, Jones' stagecraft (which Young imitates and remixes towards a subverse, political message of potential liberation) and a choreography of allusive and direct movement. Paralleling the experience of the young women and Jones' rise to fame, it acknowledges how the very cultures that defined and shaped the music and atmosphere of the nightclub have come to be marginalised and excluded: for the contemporary clubber, the body has become a site of conflict, compelled to conform to certain norms of beauty – not least of colour and race.
The sheer dynamism of the band and Young's fluid presence – she is variously hidden beneath a tarpaulin that she transforms into a golden dress, balanced on high heels, whispering details of the characters' lives, singing Jones' famous numbers, covered in symbolic chains or, in imitation of Jones' celebrated routine, hula-hooping – prevent the stark condemnation of clubbing's racism from becoming pessimistic. There is a constant joy competing with rage, notably in the finale but even in the darkest moments that dwell in the margins between appropriation and rejection, when the bodies of young women are deemed unacceptable to the glamorous, even while the glamorous feed on the legacy of artists like Jones.
Young's genius is to see the contradictions, exposing them while recognising the seductive thrill of the nightclub, the attraction that drags the punter towards its vicious, excluding core. Noise, poetry, independence, brilliance: capturing those qualities which Jones brought to the 1980s, and placing them at the service of a vivid, contemporary political engagement.
Seen at CCA, Glasgow, Wed 20 Mar.