Notorious (3 stars)


Past performers and tropes invoked for an unsatisfying satire of pop culture

Drawing heavily on the performance strategies of Ann Liv Young – a regular guest at the Arches before its closure, the Famous Lauren Barri Holstein claims that this rambling, provocative and self-consciously disorientating show is a visceral response to misogyny, a deliberate attempt to test audience sensibilities and a display of her desire to please the audience, even at the cost of her own desires and safety. In a quiet monologue towards the finale, the Famous explains this, questioning whether she has simply pandered to the crowd, given them a ritual of redemption (in which the naughty girl becomes the virgin through hanging), and stating that she would rather be somewhere else.

Thanks to persistent flickering between a stage person and moments of apparent authenticity, it's hard to know how sincere this monologue might be, but it does not entirely excuse the loose structure, the inarticulate reflections on identity, or undermine the obvious technical skill of her aerial work and the explicitness of certain routines. Ironically, the collision of episodes and personae, reaching towards an idea that is always just beyond articulation, the parody of contemporary pop music and the informal attitude towards stage-craft is sporadically effective when it is most familiar.

Swamped by the large stage – and extending the episodes beyond their natural limits, Notorious never settles: the conversational interludes feel exposed while the spectacular episodes of violent aerial display are expanded into repetitious and brutal statements of self-destruction. This is by design rather than poor dramaturgy, allowing plenty of time for reflection on the basic intentions – which are broadly outlined as misogyny, mythical stereotyping of women, the influence of popular music in sexualising female identities, including that of innocence – but prevent the provocation from ever becoming too immediate or intense.

A squid is used as headgear, then destroyed -– leading to an audience heckle. The Famous injects liquid and coins into her vagina. She swings as if hanging for her sins. She addresses the audience and makes up fantastic tales. One of her assistants essays a lesbian sex fantasy. A parade of fantasies and distortions, juxtaposed but rarely building towards a coherent analysis, are weaved together roughly into an impressionistic mixture.

It stutters to an ending.

Reviewed at the Tramway, as part of Take Me Somewhere.

Take Me Somewhere

The spirit of The Arches lives on in this festival of contemporary international performance.