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Pulse 2012: The second weekend. Day one

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Strange things happen on the Campsite, Pulse’s open-air entertainment space for the festival’s second weekend. These include live music in a number of genres, lots of family-oriented events – I was particularly taken with the messy-nest magpie – as well as a make-your-own Ghostbusters musical, films and a range of (very) intimate shows, usually for just one or two audience members at a time.

With a colleague I experienced The Post Office of Doctor Moreau in one of the vintage campervans which ring the site, each with its own user-friendly name. This particular short show is an interactive audio-visual affair, loosely based on the H G Wells story, only here the mad scientist sells stamps and takes in parcels rather than lording it over an island. Dialogue exchanges are prompted by the headphones and there’s a strategic use of the props before us.

Away from the immediate environs of the New Wolsey Theatre and Studio, three snazzily-garbed performers enticed both children (willingly) and adults (more reluctantly) into their hopscotch stadium. This was outside the Town Hall, amid the bustle of a typical Saturday market. Holly Darton, Dot Howard and Vicki Weitz wore their gleaming blue and white space-suits with panache and seemed to have a good rapport with those willing to have a go at Three Step Endeavour.

Now, what can one make of Shed, a work-in-progress by Rich Chilver for one onstage performer – Bethany Sharp-McLeod – and two recorded voices. The word “shed” can be taken in more than one way, of course. It’s a place in which to store things, and also can be a place of retreat. On the other hand, as a verb is suggests losing people or possessions, whether deliberately or by accident.

Fiona is our protagonist, a 15 year-old who lives with her father in what was the family home. From what we can gather from her comments, he’s a pretty hopeless individual. Fiona isn’t sure if she wants her mother back – and she certainly doesn’t want her mother’s new husband – but she is desperate to regain her younger sister Zoe.

It’s one of those stream of consciousness pieces. Basically it’s a monologue whose repetitions and backwards-sideways shifts are taxing alike for the performer and the audience. Marie Cynthia Beesoon directs. The audience really does need to listen hard and to concentrate fiercely, if it is all even to begin to make any sense at all.

Another work-in-progress is Joseph Mercier’s Good Boy which draws on the writings of Jean Genet, especially those which examine his own homosexuality. Mercier both speaks the words and half-mimes, half-dances the accompanying highly minimalised movements. There’s a fascinating sound accompaniment of drips, clicks and clock-ticks paralleled by flickering light. It’s highly concentrated and very effective.

Emily’s Very Sad Play is Sara Pascoe’s current work-in-progress examining the lies we tell ourselves as well as other people. Two quotations sum it up: “My name is Emily, and I think I’m a bad person” and “I’m Alice – and I lied about Wonderland”. Emily may, or may not, have a twin sister but her main trouble is that, though a book-lover, she set fire to the library “because I was pregnant”.

The duo which makes up Tatty Del for Tatty-Del Are Making It Work offered an exploration of what it means to work in tandem with someone who in many ways is your exact opposite. Their trouble is that inspiration can’t just be summoned when you want it. You can consult therapists, professional and social acquaintances, even your own families – but sometimes nothing works. I’m not sure that this piece works either.

On the other hand, Legs 11 does. Tom Marshman is the possessor of the limbs in question. They’re very long and shapely, especially in spangled tights, but they once had varicose veins. We hear how these were removed and how he then entered the Pretty Polly competition, getting through to the finals, the one boy in the line-up. It’s a cabaret act basically, with some audience participation, but fun as the finale to a Saturday evening.


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