The star rating is totally provisional for an event that is impossible to review, but important to record. 12 Last Songs was the work of Quarantine, an ensemble of artists and producers which has been active in the Manchester/Salford area for 22 years and it was produced as part of Leeds’ Transform 21-22, an extended festival across these two years.
12 Last Songs occupied Leeds Playhouse’s Quarry Theatre for twelve hours, from midday to midnight, in an essentially participatory, rather than performance-related, format. Ticket-holders were welcome to drop in and out of the auditorium as they wished, but where it was really at was the vast stage area, filled with lights, screens, microphones, props and tables and two rows of audience/participants.
Quarantine’s co-Artistic Director, Richard Gregory, described it as “an attempt to create a complex fragmented mass portrait, a kaleidoscopic glimpse at a slice of society”, starting with the world of work, but moving out to wider things: society, beliefs, politics. Advance publicity mentioned hairdressers cutting people’s hair and chefs preparing a meal.
When The Reviews Hub sampled 12 Last Songs, some seven hours in, an expert in Public Health was making the case for a Basic Universal Income, a detailed lecture with slides dealing with the World Health Organisation, the connection between income and health and much else. Meanwhile a decorator was hanging paper next to the large screen showing the slides and cooks were at work – clearly some of the audience had just been fed.
The atmosphere was active and informal, especially so when a young woman – clearly one of the facilitators – approached the lecturer and asked if anyone knew the time. It was the hook – in the pleasantest way imaginable – and the lecturer soon wound up his presentation, to be replaced by an interview with an opera singer. What was obvious was that, together with the individual presentations, the day had a unified momentum. The presenter asked the audience what number question had been reached and soon questions 321 and 322 – about society, aspirations and self-image – appeared on the big screen.
Presumably some sort of answers – even if only partial – had been provided for at least some of the 322 questions which seems a good enough reason for this unique event.
Visited on October 23rd 2021