Saturday 21 November 2020

A Red Square - Live Art Review

What: A Red Square
When: 14 - 29 November 2020
Where: Delivered to you
Created by: Pony Cam

The first thing I need to say is do not be fooled by this image! A Red Square is definitely Adults Only. Believe the content warnings when they say it contains "Violence, Self Harm or Suicide, Sexual References, Death, Murder".

The second thing I need to say is that A Red Square is truly post-dramatic in that late 1970's, stream of consciousness kind of way so whatever I say it is about will be meaningless. Perfectly post-dramatic in the academic sense, A Red Square is a seeming jumble of ideas and found objects and trains of thought which are brought together in a completely unique (and probably incomprehensible) combination of signs and symbols which some will revere and others will shy away from in horror and despair. This is trademark Pony Cam.

So what is A Red Square? To begin with, this event is a PowerPoint presentation. Upon registration, a USB memory stick will be delivered to your door. It will include instructions and 3 Powerpoint files - Act 1, Act 2, Act 3. The presentation works in a similar fashion to those flip through animation books and how seemless your animation looks will depend on how fast you click through the slides. Some you can pass by quickly, some you will need to linger on, and you may find yourself having to go backwards every so often thinking you missed something connecting the dots. (You probably didn't because a lot of dots aren't connected...).

WARNING: Each file contains around 1500 slides so you may want to switch between using your mouse and the arrow keys on your keyboard to prevent RSI! Also, it took me quite a bit longer than the suggested 50 minutes to get through all three acts...maybe I was thinking about it too much?

Act 1 lures us into what looks like a sweet and lovely animation. Two red squares meet, date, and marry. They then decide to adopt a little red square from the local orphanage. Little red square comes home but has some very odd nightmares and this is when Pony Cam start to hint that this story is not going to go where you think it will. The journey to follow is more shocking and graphic than I ever thought geometric shapes in Office Suite could ever take us. This is where the trigger warnings kick in and I cannot stress enough to please, please, please take them seriously! On a weirder note, some viewers may even end up giving themselves a 'happy ending' long before the show is even over ;)

Acts 2 and 3 hit post-dramatics hard and fast. Without giving away too much, one of the parent squares go in search of their missing little square and does a deep dive into Google. On the way they discover Liam Neeson and his movie Taken and a new obsession is born. 

Perhaps the one over-riding theme I can find - assuming there is one - is the act of searching. The red square searches for love, for family, for information, for praise, for revenge, for accomplishment, for peace...

I can't really speak in too much detail because I don't know how individual each USB version of A Red Square is. What I do know is that Pony Cam made me a part of their art (this is the "non-consensual:" aspect of the show) along with Liam Neesom, but I have read another review which suggests that reviewer was placed in the art instead. I don't know if everyone who receives A Red Square gets themselves in the work or if there are specific versions.

I was fascinated with my version though, because it established a dance between me and them which began with their Butterfly Club show Chook. I was invited to come and review, which I did. In my version of A Red Square my review featured prominently, especially a quote  "What I would like to see is a greater commitment to dramaturgy". It comes up time and again as the red square goes to drama school and culminates with a theatre full of Samsara's applauding their work. This dance ends, I presume, with this review as the coda.

Pony Cam is a company which is diving head long into post-dramatic theatre. It has been a while since companies have engaged so vigourously. You might recall the works of The Wooster Group, Goat Island and, more recently, Forced Entertainment perhaps. 

I feel as though the world has moved on a bit from this kind of stream of consciousness work for the main part. Especially when it lacks the protest passions of a social movement such as feminism, racism, classism, etc. Raw intellect in theatre can end up being theatre for theatre people and then the semiotics become meaningless - even when they are assumptively meaningless to begin with.

On the other hand, as we saw with all the crises at the start of the last century, confusing and difficult times give rise to confusing and difficult art. It is no surpise that the COVID 19 pandemic of 2020 is attracting artists to create work which as much of a whirlwind as our understanding of the world and our lives is right now.

One of the things I encouraged in the Chook review was for Pony Cam to not be afraid to go wherever their dark and crazed minds take them and they have definitely done this with A Red Square. If you take the risk and explore this work, you will be affected, you will be confronted, you will be challenged. You will feel, you will think, you will wonder. You will experience A Red Square in a way which is deep and rare. You may possibly even get a duet with the company while you watch...?

And now I take a bow because my dance has finished and yours is yet to begin.

3.5 Stars

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