"Earth Angel", Southwark Playhouse

Together, me and Alex form a rather harsh critical team, much like those unfair moments in WWF tag team wrestling where both members of one tag team are allowed in the ring to totally fuck over some guy, whilst the guy’s tag partner has to hang out in his corner, holding that little bit of string. The general idea is that he cleans up all of the wrong and bad ideas in the highbrow, tolerant, experimental theatre realm, whilst I relentlessly mock a production for its desperate, clawing attempts at everyman relevance, pointless nudity and blatant avoidance of fundamental theatre constructs.

Okay, that might all be bollocks. Nevertheless, “Earth Angel” had plenty to whet our collective critical whistle.

Ostensibly a meditation on birth, death and – y’know – being a woman and shit, the posters proclaimed “Delving into the depths of a woman subverted”. Whilst we were unsure at the start what “a woman subverted” was, we were keen, if a little trepidatious, to delve within those depths. And delve we did.

The plot: In a series of video projected sequences, a blindfolded woman walks backwards to a bed, covered in earth, full of flowers, burying some objects (or uncovering them… my brain gets screwed with backwards film). Meanwhile, on an identical bed, the same woman does some crazy stuff, unblindfolded, before disappearing into the bed, winding up on a video projection naked, where she turns into a germinated seed.

Oh god, what is one supposed to do whilst confronted by experimental theatre? (Other than howl like a wolf and eat the actor?)

Provoking guffaws of derision at lines such as “Dead! All dead! How long is this going to go on for?! Shit!”, poncing about with a pillow on her head, playing with a dictaphone, sticking cotton wool up her nose, sneezing out earth, the sole performer Catherine Hoffmann caused both me and Alex to worry about her actual mental health. Certainly, as I suggested to Alex, “Dude has a womb thing”, and boy, did we know it. Big points for pulling a GENUINE MEAT HEART out of a pocket on her dress and burying it in the earth, for screeching like a baby, and for the aforementioned bravura nakedness-turning-into-a-germinated-seed performance.

Additional mentions must go to the guy playing guitar to the left of us. Dude got a delay pedal for his birthday, and he used it with aplomb. Cathedrals of delayed guitar formed an altogether predictable ambient wash over the action, enlivened only when Alex tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to the guitarist, who was playing his guitar with a tiny plastic fan. Brilliant.

Oh, and there were THREE people in the audience. And two of them were me and Alex. And people say fringe theatre is in trouble, pah!

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