Orla Barry – Mountain at South London Gallery
Every sentence we utter is an improvisation – this is the premise of Mountain, a new live art performance directed by Irish artist Orla Barry that had its UK première at the South London Gallery last night. Fittingly, the performance is billed as a one-off because no two shows will ever be the same.
The plan is simple: Barry’s female lead, Einat Tuchman is joined by two other performers and between the three of them they take turns to spin a wheel-of-fortune that contains 36 words, with each word producing a different impromptu reaction upon its arbitrary selection. However, what this evolves into is a complex study of language, its possibilities, restrictions, and meanings. Essentially, its semiotics as a live, visual performance that Jacques Derrida himself would have enjoyed.
Although the performances throughout are impromptu, they are of course not completely unrehearsed. Various words trigger the three performers to grab certain props or begin planned routines. The fun comes with seeing what is going to happen next, the real fun comes with seeing certain words come around again – especially when the performance it prompts is a particularly amusing one. For example, “multiply” sets Tuchman off into a bizarre convulsing act that is slightly disconcerting at first, but eventually receives the biggest laugh of the night.
Almost all of the selections bring about memorable performances. A creepy voiceover recording played over loudspeaker is invoked by “hypnotist”, a dance number with canes is what “restrict” invokes, and the word “hovel” causes Tuchman to deliver a monologue about a girl meeting a guy at a bar that takes an unpredictable turn.
Each of the three performers deserves great praise. The nature of the show requires them to switch between characters and personalities, and deliver a range of emotional responses in short, controlled moments.
Even though the night’s show is currently a one-off, there comes a moment towards the end of Mountain that is far too clever to spoil. It would be wrong to reveal it in print as the experience live during the show has a terrifically engaging impact that encapsulates the themes.
For further information about Orla Barry and future events visit here.
Watch a trailer for Orla Barry: Mountain here: