The show promises a neo-noir fever dream, clouds of haze, crumbling walls of transcendent noise, a 120 decibel suicide note; and on these it does not disappoint. From start to finish, the show is one unbearably long hellish nightmare of apocalyptic sound that relentlessly pounds away at your eardrums without restpite. More gig than theatre, Christopher Brett Bailey and his two fellow artists, Alicia Jane Turner and George Percy hammer away, as one can barely call it “playing”, for an hour and a half on lobotomised pianos, two guitars, loop pedals, samplers and a violin. It is like watching three demented teenagers, mid psychotic break, have a frenzied and furious jamming session. It is without structure or narrative.
The entire performance is a manic auditory drawing of some inexplicable desire to watch the world burn. In an audience of what couldn’t have been more than 50 people, I felt an intruder in what was so clearly an artist’s egocentric indulgence in his own creative emotional impulse. The audience seem an unfortunate inconvenience for Bailey. The overtly erotic ASMR style, spoken word makes the audience squirm uncomfortably. We are given earplugs on entry and from the offset the audience are accosted with glaring headlights shone directly into the crowd. This is a production that manages to actively reject its own audience. The Contact Theatre, a charity venue run by young people, seems an inappropriate venue choice for this show, and I think the poor attendance is telling. The show would make far more sense situated in an abandoned warehouse or aircraft hanger, somewhere vast, cold and most definitely unseated. There are rare moments of clarity in the show, even beauty at times from Alice Jane Turner on the violin, but these are swiftly swallowed by the black hole of uncomfortable sound that dominates the vast majority of this show.
It is difficult however to really criticise this performance as it so clearly intends to be as obnoxious and offensive as it is. For Bailey the production’s abrasiveness is its greatest strength rather than any sort of shortcoming. And bizarrely I find myself warming to this concept more and more now I’ve left the show. Do we really have to enjoy art for it to be “good”? I think ultimately, I remain unconvinced. The show doesn’t seem to know what or where it is; it has none of the narrative escapism of theatre, or the live atmosphere of a gig, or the freedom of an art show. It is awkward, unpleasant and very, very loud. There were five walkouts, a shocking statistic for such a small audience, and a very weak smattering of confused applause when the evening finally came to an end. “This is a hell dream” were the words chanted again and again, amplified out like some sort of satanic ritual; I suppose we can’t say we weren’t warned. - Oscar Lister