September 21, 2023


Make Some Fun

Distress and decay: Porca Miseria by Trajal Harrell

3 min read

Phrases by angel mud.

It’s been just a few weeks since I witnessed Trajal Harrell’s Porca Miseria on the Barbican Theatre and the sensation of awe remains to be very a lot current in my physique. The night was particular in that it took the viewers on a bodily journey by way of its three elements (Deathbed, O Medea, Maggie the Cat), that though thematically totally different they conceptually and stylistically created a really coherent and immersive entire that very finely balanced distress and ecstasy, decay and ascension. The important thing elements to a wholesome life.

In Deathbed the viewers is invited to sit down on the stage, in actually shut proximity to the performers. An intimate witnessing of a ritual that culminates in dying, this piece explores Harrel’s reminiscence of African-American choreographer and activist Katherine Dunham. Writing a letter, braiding a rope from a chunk of cloth, an acorn, a bunch of entangled wires, picket laborious bristled brushes, a forged iron Japanese tea kettle, three fragrance bottles and a set of three bells in silver, bronze and gold. An individual walks a duck puppet across the stage. One other particular person balances one thing invisible on their head.

O Medea is a brief movie, a meditation on time, grieving and gravity impressed by the traditional Greek determine Medea. A mortal girl with divine ancestry, she was the previous princess of Colchis earlier than her husband Jason left her for the princess of Corinth. As vengeance, Medea kills each Jason’s new spouse and her two personal sons that he fathered.

Maggie the Cat is a hiccuping-techno-folk trend teleshopping expertise. The performers maintain coming onto the stage as if on a catwalk, showcasing a spread of makeshift outfits created by sporting towels as headpieces and holding pillows onto their our bodies. A pageant promoting us opulence constructed with no means, this piece is predicated on the eponymous character Maggie from Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Sizzling Tin Roof, a determined and lovely girl that’s certain to a husband who doesn’t want her.

The thought of bricolage – a making do with what you bought – one thing prevalent in queer ballroom tradition, is a top quality that Harrell maintains and displays deliberately in his work even within the context of working inside massive establishments. Most of the objects and costumes nonetheless have their value tags on as if they are going to be returned again to the shop for a refund after the present. I discover Harrell meticulous (however in a relaxing out sort of method) each in his humour and his choreography, which is how he achieves to make time and its passing really feel like a vacuum in a method that I think about the three items as a endless loop or a tragicomical spiral.

In Porca Miseria, Harrell invokes the powers of the physique, the sultry, the sombre, the long-lasting, the aching physique that encapsulates what it means to inhabit this materials airplane as a human, significantly one that’s othered. By interweaving these three feminine figures collectively the collection creates a hyperlink between torment, energy and wonder that may be very exactly threaded by way of the mixture of Japanese Butoh, voguing and historic Greek theatre. Porca Miseria actually interprets to ‘pork poverty’ from Italian and is the equal of ‘bloody hell’ in English which I can guarantee you was the sentiment of most viewers members strolling out from the Barbican that evening. This was the primary time I witnessed Harrel’s work on stage and I’m trying ahead to the subsequent one.

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