A Glimpse Inside the Aberystwyth Student Performance of ‘The Body of [insert name here]’

How does one start a review for a performance that they themselves cannot comprehend?

Can we suitably review a performance that is incomprehensible?

What is comprehension?

How is a performance, a performance?

What is a performance?

Are apples green?

Can.. can we? How?

How do we touch? Taste? See? Hear? Smell?

A lack of surety and certainty greeted the audience as they entered a small room to witness a performance by seven individuals called ‘The Body of [insert name here]’. What this review will attempt to deliver is a reflection of what happened during those 30 minutes in that room, so sit tight. This isn’t your usual review.

Lining the sides of the room were 20 chairs that surrounded a black tarpaulin covered in soil and tiny bits of newspaper. A bright light defined the room, with six of the seven actors, all with blank expressions, at the front holding black rectangular pieces of fabric. We had been instructed to either stand or sit by a chair. Amidst the soil in the centre of the room, the seventh actor – with the black fabric acting as a blindfold – was slowly moving around and feeling the soil. After a moment, the actors, one after the other, tied the black fabric around their eyes and proceeded to move onto the tarpaulin and either sit or move around, interacting in various ways with the soil. In complete silence, the audience witnessed creations of soil angels, structures, shapes; the soil sifting through their fingers constantly. Here we come across the first of three senses represented in this performance – sight, or more specifically, the loss of sight. Memories of mankind’s first steps into this world can be observed in these actions: encountering that which you don’t understand, touching and smelling the soil to comprehend what this new substance that lies before you is. It is evident we all take sight for granted.

After ten minutes, the lights cut out, and we were left in complete darkness, with only a small burst of light originating from underneath the door.

Out of this darkness, a cacophony of voices collided with the silence of the room. The language of the actors that filled this space was both provocatively-enriching and psychologically distressing. A question would be asked by an actor, and that question would then be deconstructed and intermeshed with other questions until another key question arose, and subsequently deconstructed and explored. A key theme of senses was maintained throughout. In time, these questions became shorter, until only the first word of the question is being spoken – Why? What? Can I? This further spiralled out of control when a mental and physical collapse of all the actors occurred. A panicked symphony arose amidst the audience, and one could only feel distress and horror at what was unfolding in front of them. Here we come across the second of the three senses – sound. In an attempt to understand the world around them the actors broke down under the immense weight of it all. Obvious allegories aside, it demonstrated an inner battle we all fight ourselves: the ever-growing fight to understand the world around us and failing to do so. Acceptance that we cannot comprehend everything around us seems to be the message.

Almost instantly, this terror mix halts. We are blinded by the arrival of light, and observe seven actors frozen in various positions, no longer blank but perturbed expressions on their faces.

After a short moment, one of the actors makes their move, and proceeds to pick up a bucket of ice cubes. Starting from the far right corner of the room, they proceeded to utter some form of ritualistic chanting* to each member of the audience and, picking up an ice cube, raises it above their head and gives it to the person in front of them. During this time, the six other performers, blindfolds off, moved around the soil and interacted with each other; almost as if they were fascinated with seeing another human being and were desperate to understand one another. Slowly but surely, these interactions became more bitter and aggressive until fighting erupted from four of the actors, with the other two in a heap at the centre of the room. At once this stopped, a line was formed, an actor was lifted, an ice cube placed into their mouth; the line was reformed, each actor was given an ice cube by the seventh, and awe was displayed by each actor at this new substance.

With further interaction, a heap of human bodies formed in the centre of the room. Covered in soil, ice cubes all around them, limbs all over the place and blank expressions having made a re-appearance, the audience witnessed the final image of the performance. Whether this represented the mass graves of the Holocaust Camps, or the tangled web of problems and people in our lives that we inevitably can’t escape, cannot be said for certain. What it does represent, however, is the third of the senses portrayed in this performance – touch. Encountering your own kind, your own species, flesh and blood, through interaction and beginning to hate one another, fighting aggressively, passionately touching to then end up in a mess on the floor, all of you linked in some inexplicable way or another. Whether you want to create a message out of that will be left up to you.

As the six actors lay there on the floor, the seventh actor opened the door, and the audience left the room.

What to deduce from all of this is left to you, the reader.

Performance Ensemble:

  • Tim Martin Jones
  • Karolina Kwant
  • Hermione Arblaster
  • Carys Bevan
  • Dominika Chuchla
  • Angharad Ford
  • Jasmine Mulhall

*acknowledgment to Andrew Cecil