Art is a Weapon
THE GESAMTKUNSTWERK by British Intervention
'Peace, Love & Solidarity!' by British Intervention
The title of this werk - a German word with historical links to the masterpieces of Richard Wagner - means 'total work'. But the brave collaborators of counter-establishment British Intervention do not perform on Wagner's scale, certainly not in opera houses. They do not convey the impression of wishing to inspire fascist madmen.
The show begins with a silent typist at a laptop that's wired to a projector, flashing live messages to the audience on the rough brick-lining of an arch that supports Putney Bridge. Next to him is a man with his head in a white carrier bag that's loosely tied at his neck. The featherlight plastic clings to his mouth and his face, like a second skin, as he breathes in. The shocking reality of latent suffocation is just a clue of what's to follow: a sequence of very physical and challenging shock-theatre.
British Intervention confronts and physically engages its audiences with subject matter at the extreme of human behaviour and psychological control, depicting military (and usually illegal) abuse. The performers endure significant sacrifices for their art. They sing and wrestle with each others' bodies. And there are sufficent light touches to keep the show well within the orbit of 'entertainment', should one be seeking such a thing.
Attend and intervene!
Review by David Goldsmith, technical editor of Skateboard! magazine (1977-8)
The past couple of months have been a queer time for those who care about a future, any future, that doesn’t see more power handed to Westminster. Leaving the EU still hasn't hit home as much as you’d think it would have but those in power, those who we tasked with leading the charges for remain and leave don’t care because the effect of leaving as it will never touch them.
It will, and has, however touched the lives of the four men behind British Intervention as well as countless millions of under 25s who now have a rather bleak future.
‘Peace, Love, Solidarity’ doesn’t hold back and its anger, bitter resentment and frustration is justified within the first few minutes. As the performance starts so to does a digital clock, fixed in position on the wall that is counting down to zero from 60 minutes. There is a rawness to this piece that creates a very heavy and exhausting hour for the performers and audience alike. Within their logic you would be hard pushed to find any real criticism the result of being conned and failed so blatantly is written on their faces and etched in every word the speak.
They strip their play bare and with confidence and maturity produce a powerful, salient and immediate piece of theatre that makes an impact. The set is simple but intricate with the vastness of the space giving you this feeling of a 1970s style Central London squat where the company and friends would spend hours on this type of conversation and philosophy.
Youths, socialists and lefties would plan demos and strikes of solidarity with unions and workers and solidarity would be forged. Two flags, England and Union Jack, are spread out on the floor with a third, the European Union flag, tied to the head of the mic stand. Midway through the performance they stop, almost certainly to catch their breaths, but to explain that the next it had been written withDavid Cameron in mind but then Brexit happened. Throughout most of the play my eyes kept coming back to the EU flag and this notion of what Peace, Love and Solidarity is meant to mean.
As the clock continues to countdown the four performers take over the space blending spoken words, movement, sound, music and visuals that grow urgent and uneasy. It seems chaotic but never fragmented or lazy with each set piece pushing the boundaries but maintaining an intellectual saliency that usurps any real unease you might feel. Visuals, ranging from images, video, texts and pictures, are constantly projected over the counting down clock which always makes you aware of the time adding to the sense of urgency.
Part performance art and physical theatre ‘Peace, Love, Solidarity’ traverses a few theatres styles yet maintains its own original sense of self and purpose. Theatre at this level is a rare sight to see at the fringe not least because it challenges you, your silence and acceptance, perhaps even your complicity with establishment, and it does this because they are absolutely right in their premise.
There are few established theatre companies in the UK that could have achieved what British Intervention have with their play. It boldness and originality create an unwavering commitment to their art and illustrate with sophistication the power of theatre and what can be achieved if you don’t hold back. Only by following this rule can you create theatre that has meaning, that has purpose and that slaps you awake.
Most theatre have taken a dump on the stage willing to sell out to pop names and popular plays by long dead playwrights that stops innovation within the industry. They want to keep the audience as sheep, who blindly go into one generic show after another happy and content in their docility. ‘Peace, Love, Solidarity’ wakes them up, boils their blood and challenges them to realise just what sacrifices that have been made, and for what?
The theatre landscape in the UK is bland at best with only a handful of theatres willing to produce plays that challenges, threatens and upsets the establishment. And it is a strange Orwellian position to be in and is a question asked during ‘Peace, Love, Solidarity’ which is rather simple, do we have peace, love and solidarity’?
Review by The New Current, 2016.