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Manchester International Festival: Day 16

  • Richard Fair
  • 13 Jul 07, 09:05 AM

Parental AdvisoryI’ve not checked my e-mail yet, but I know for a fact that there will be at least a dozen offering me a deal on Viagra. I’m thinking of forwarding them to Alex Poots so that the Manchester International Festival can buy a supply for a certain bull that didn’t ‘perform’ at last night’s world premier of Il Tempo del Postino.

Perhaps it was first night nerves or perhaps he was distracted by the two half-naked women peeing on the stage or the Cleopatra-like woman with her hand up her bottom. Did I just write that? I need to check my notes.

It’s OK it wasn’t a dream. I really did see all that with my own eyes on the stage at the Manchester Opera House, but I will just check my notes one more time.

I knew before the piece – Guardian of the Veil by Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler – that I was in for something different. Something challenging. Apart from what was going on stage, all around the auditorium were actors dressed in IRA-type uniform brandishing ukuleles. Let me tell you, if that was the chosen weapon of the paramilitary group in the seventies the troubles would have ended a long time ago.

Cock and bull
So planned or otherwise, the cock and bull story put around town that a live animal was going to be relieved sexually on stage, turned out to be all bull. Take away the urinating women and the guy with the dog strapped to his head – sorry didn’t I mention that? There was this guy with a dog strapped to his head. Anyway, take those bits out of the performance and there’d be nothing to write about as everything else happened at a pace half the speed of a drifting continent. We could have all left at 10 o’clock and gone to a Tupperware Party or something.

It wasn’t meant to be the climax of the evening, but at the last minute they decided to switch the programme round. I overheard Alex Poots telling someone that they felt it was better to finish on the Guardian of the Veil as it represented the end of civilisation. Or performance art or the Manchester Opera House.

Earlier we had a more diverse selection of art installations pass before our eyes like those colourful dishes at YO! Sushi. Dancing curtains, Chinese Opera, some woman singing Love Will Tear Us Apart in total darkness and people talking very fast like they do at cattle auctions. At one point the stage lights came on the reveal the entire audience looking back at itself. We were the performers and we were expected to perform. Any slight noise from the auditorium sparked a reaction for the orchestra (made up from students at the RNCM who probably get up to all this kind of thing on a Thursday night anyway).

Sometimes it felt like I was watching some kind of Salvador Dali version of Opportunity Knocks at other times it was just plain weird.

Anyway, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Mancubist has been to see The Pianist. "this is where the festival should concentrate if it is to succeed: by inviting some of the arts world’s leading figures to help shine bright lights on Manchester’s hidden gems."

Comments   Post your comment

Gosh, Richard, you went to see something by Matthew Barney... His very famous series of films is called The Cremaster cycle, and cremaster is, wait a minute, it is there "to raise and lower the scrotum in order to regulate the temperature of the testis and promote spermatogenesis" (Wikipedia). Wiki, again, explains that Barney uses cremaster as a conceptual point of departure. If I'm correct, he's Bjork's partner. I'm now wondering, if Il Tempo del Postino was Barney's destination...

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