North WestReviewSpoken Word

[Insert Slogan Here] – HOME, Manchester

Writer: Sam Ward

Reviewer: Jo Beggs

Following a scratch performance at the Royal Exchange last Summer, YESYESNONO bring [Insert Slogan Here] to the PUSH festival at HOME, which showcases local companies and performers. Comparing the show descriptions, though, suggests that writer and performer Sam Ward has made some significant changes to the piece for what he describes as “the first time I’ve done this show”.

This hour of spoken word performance, interspersed with live video and electronic music (the performers names prove difficult to locate anywhere) and audience participation, explores ideas of memory and fiction, personal stories and confessions. The show is (possibly, or possibly not) built around Ward’s own autobiographical memories – sensory recall of the beach of childhood holidays, the euphoria of clubbing – and the mashed-up, false memories of dreams, films, TV and imagination. Running throughout is a sense of threat, of imminent danger, of superstition and fate.

[Insert Slogan Here] has been either underworked or overworked. It’s hard to tell which. Although the structure of the piece works well with it’s textual and physical repetition, the ideas are unformed – like fleeting fragments of a dream that fails to make sense and ultimately frustrate. The spoken word sections are rhythmic and sharply underpinned by the live music but the text is packed with cliché and lacks any compelling narrative.

There’s a particularly theatrical crowd in the HOME studio for the show if the audience participation is anything to go by. Ward picks out three eloquent and likeable story-tellers who don’t hesitate to tell us about their first kiss, first friend and first home in exquisite detail. They do this while building a car from cardboard boxes and garish craft materials, an activity that is possibly designed to distract them from any self-consciousness about their memories.

There’s a poor technical decision to screen the film on the back wall of the stage with the image interrupted by a metal door. It’s a huge visual distraction and feels like a staging compromise that under values the work of the video artist, who creates a rather hypnotic backdrop out of found film – from home movies to advertising, cartoons to documentary.

This is a show that still feels like a scratch performance, that has a long way to go before it’s a fully formed piece. It raises too many questions and fails to answer them – and if it never really set out to (which is completely possible), then it probably tests the audience too hard, leaving everything annoyingly unresolved.

Runs until 16 Jan 2018 | Image: Contributed

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The North West team is under the editorship of John Roberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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