An empty, spotlit space in the centre of the stage. In the shadows around it are some small domestic objects and home-made musical instruments. A large backdrop reads “l’etat, c’est moi” (“I am the state”). A figure is moving in the shadows, wrapped in blanket/robe scrawled with magical sigils and Dadaist graffiti, wearing a crown made in the form of a small castle. He makes small noises – scratching a drum, lightly shaking a maraca. The sounds get louder, words more coherent, snatches of sense emerge and strange instruments are played.
A disconcerting ritual is presented that physically and sonically explores a drastically unstable concept: ‘the Will of the People’. As well as a valediction to the welfare state and its purportedly inadequate subjects, the piece ambivalently alludes to Brexit, which has exposed longstanding fractures in ‘our’ body politic whilst presenting a fantasy of the nation-state (UK) as a kind of ideal, coherent, body; a unified territory and people. This is a denial that fracturing, agonism and incompletion are essential for liberal democracy to function.
The performance, moving between song, gutter poetry and surreal denunciation, treads a fine line between grotesque comedy and the intimidating bus stop wino, the tragic and the absurdly abject, exploring fantasies of personal and political wholeness with the intent to posit a competing vision, that of the abjected sovereign – the liberal-democratic rights-bearing subject, ‘client’ of the welfare state.
About Robin Bale
Robin Bale is a poet, sound and improvised spoken word artist. He is particularly interested in the relation of performer to audience, the political aspects of that relation and the space which that interaction defines. He considers this space to be a site of necessary social disquiet. He uses sound, including vocalisation, to explore and map that space. Lately he has focussed on the affective impact of the ongoing dismantling of the welfare state by the ideologues of neoliberalism and exploring the fractured quality this gives to everyday experience.
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