Moder Dy – Roseanne Watt

Moder Dy (Mother Wave) by Roseanne Watt

Poetry www.polygonbooks.co.uk

Moder Dy is from the Shetland dialect referring to the mother wave, an underswell which local fishermen steer by, supposedly always leading them home. And home is a major theme of this slim volume of poetry by Roseanne Watt, poet, musician and filmmaker. Born on the furthest shores of Scotland, this is Watt’s debut collection and the deserved winner of the Edwin Morgan Poetry Award 2018. After studying far away at the University of Stirling for her PhD where she was supervised by Kathleen Jamie, whose own evocative essays in Findings have a similar air of quiet watching, Watt’s poems are like droplets of her homeland.

This collection is a moder dy itself, an undercurrent drifting the reader northwards to unknown lands. Divided into three sections, these poems have a weightlessness about them, like an Iceland Gull landing on spindly legs in a high wind. The first section, Stoal an old story, elucidates details: patterns of lichen on rock in Lichen Leid; the “unfolding into air” of the heron and “slud-light, the space between rain showers” in Haegri.

Roseanne Watt
Roseanne Watt – poet, musician, filmmaker

In the second, Sjusamillabakka between the sea and the shore, the choice mix of English and Shetlandic pearls continues. Listen to the lovely lilt of Christine De Luca, an established Shetland poet, before reading, so as to have the accent in mind. At first it’s a mild nuisance having to look up words in the glossary at the back. That is, until you are rewarded with the richness of translation. Take Akker for example, about objects which no longer have life in them: “I thieve such pieces on slockit days when words leave me at a loss”. Slockit means ‘extinguished, as of a light’, and on returning from the back of the book to reread the verse at hand, an immediate visual image appeared of Watt sitting at her desk searching for verbal illumination on a dull day.

Simple fields and sea on Scotland's most northern shores
Unst, Shetland

Throughout, pools of white page-space balance the sparse lines, reminiscent of Watt’s native scenery of rolling turf and mirror-surfaced lagoons. In Paddock Stöls, the rightset third line has a gap at the beginning where the reader’s ears strain before “listening-in”, the fourth and fifth lines have blanks for searching before “Look” and again “there!” Blinnd-moorie (an extreme snowstorm) starts in black ink-type, but fades to the faintest grey of winter breath dissolving into a paper whiteout.

Very simple Shetlandic dwelling in remote area
Textile Museum, Bod of Gremister, Shetland

Not only are wildlife and landscape, weather and sea treated with a buoyant sensibility, but there is an emotional consciousness too. In Fledgling Watt hangs back and watches as another stoops and cups a sparrow in hand: “a windswept heart made manifest; feather light and hollow…”. There is a palpable grief in Migration Day: “opening again, like skin remembering wounds”, and real heartbreak in The Diagnosis, but there is also the third and final chapter, Kokkel the compass, which guides one along the coast of this lingering melancholy and steers a safe passage home to the heart of things.

Highly decorated bus shelter with memorabilia from around the world
The world’s most northerly bus stop! Shetland

Watt is also the poetry editor for the online literary magazine, The Island Review, and her films (seen on Tumblr) are beautiful visual poems.

Other beautiful words: lomm – the change in colour of the sea when fish swim underneath; skerries rocks

Marjolein is a Shetlandic comedian and she shares some of her favourite words from the dialect on youtube – both enjoyable and informative.

Featured landscape photos by Isobel Cockburn. Title image Uyeasound, Shetland

Estonian Art Galleries

MONA Museum of New Art, 10 Esplanaadi St. 80010, Pärnu.

Give A New Life, the 7th Recycling Art Exhibition

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Kristiina Tikke Tuura’s Hiiglase Latern

I saw this beautiful Giant’s Lantern by Kristiina Tuura, a Helsinki based artist who made this work from rubbish, recycled and found objects. It pays respect to the hundreds of years old tradition of skilful Syrian lantern making. Made with the help of school children and immigrant students.

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Kristiina Tikke Tuura’s Giant Lantern

Rule and Ritual, Exhibition of Estonian Textile Artists Union

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Tuuli Reinsoo, Nothing is Missing

In Tuli Reinsoo’s work, a giant soft jigsaw of colour, fabric and script, I was invited to Play! Mangi! to move the pieces around as I fancied and make a new art work as I did so. Nothing is ever missing, the blobs which fit into the corresponding holes are part of the outline and the spaces between the pieces are as much part of the transitory, ‘final’ work.

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Detail from Matilda Dominique’s The Grid / No Grid III using a large number of different wool yarn qualities, it moves between clarity and uncertainty. 
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Krista Leesi, Sometimes a herring is just a herring

The juxtaposition of fish swimming across the chest, pithy phrase emblazoned on T shirt harks back to Freud’s ‘Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar’, a sideways reference to his constant search for meaning in dreams (although some say he never said that!) At one and the same time we accept what is, and are prompted to look into what exactly a herring is in this context.

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Marilyn Piirsalu, The Same Pattern

This installation, using fabric and embroidery, comments on the indolence and habits of the TV watching public. Lounging and dozing while the images flower and grow on the sunseen screen.

Shadow and Light Exhibition and Kaadrid Frames, Pärnu Muuseum

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Outi Martikainen, Pietke

Martikainen (weaver) writes that what lies behind her work is her worry that too many children are having to face fear, violence and hunger and that they should all have the same rights to a safe and unique childhood. I found these tapestries poignant and, taken from photographs, life-like.

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Monika Žaltauskaitė-Grašienė, weaving of St Mary

In 2012, the church of St Virgin Mary, Kulautuva, Lithuania was all but destroyed by fire. Afterwards, however, statues of the Virgin and Christ were found ‘miraculously preserved’. Grasiene was touched by the smiling face of St Mary despite the tragedy and that set her to think about how we are left after terrible things have happened in our lives.

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Symbiosis, Kaisi Rosin and Kadri Nutt 

Mutually beneficial interacton between form (the furniture maker’s chair) and pattern. Comfy and utilitarian, also images of growth and shadow to sit on.

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‘Threads’. A recommissioned Jaquard loom – wooden pattern cylinder restored by Eva-Liisa Kriis at MONA ‘Shadow and Light’ exhibition, Pärnu, Estonia

The Exhibition of work from the student’s of Olustvere TMK textile industries at Pärnu Muuseum were not far removed from natural Scottish woven cloth from the Scottish Islands. The hues and textures were juxtaposed with lace and ornamental buttons to make the cushion covers practical and adding artists touches.

Kogo Gallery, Tartu

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Kogo Galerii, a bijou contemporary art gallery which is somewhat hidden in an attractive square off Kastani, with cafes and sunshine
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Ede Raadik, Sailin’ on the Red Sea

This one woman show features wall-sized artwork which speaks of Raadik’s internal reproductive organs and their metamorphosis. Addressing fertility, menstruation, and the private monthly morphing of the ovaries, together with their abnormalities, these starkly beautiful, computer produced images defy the impersonality of technology. Yet they speak clearly of 21st century medical procedures at the same time as mythical, precious ‘golden’ eggs. Laid down before birth, here the presumptious belief that they will be ready when we need them is challenged. Red of blood and suffering, emotion and the flashing light of danger, precision of ovoid and sphere, this exhibition was moving and fascinating.

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Ede Raadik, Sailin’ on the Red Sea

Many thanks to the lovely woman who was watching the exhibition when I visited it. She was informed, friendly and most kindly drew up a list for me of art places to visit in Tallin, where I was headed later that day.

Tallinn Art Hall Gallery, Tallinn

This was a very large exhibition in a utilitarian building on Freedom Square, full to the brim with 20th century artwork in varying media.

 

Gea Sibola Hansen, Bundle of Joy; Leonhard Lapin

 

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Rait ‘Praat’s Archived Green Cloud (1952)
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Vivian Ainsaliu’s Mirage I-V (1979)
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Peeter Laurit’s Broadcasting (1962)
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Inga Heamagi’s Let my prayer arise as incense before you, from Psalm 141:2 (1961)
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Valeri Vinogradov, Forest III (1952)
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Lola Liivat, Clearcutting (1928)
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Mari Roosevalt, Light (1945)

 

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Erika Tammpere, The Land Should be Filled With Children (1942) textile

The Temnikova & Kasela contemporary art gallery, Tallin Gallery Lastekodu 1, 10115 Tallinn, Estonia.

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A walk from the city centre, this gallery had a yellow door with intertwined skeletons – a portent of doom?
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Edith Karlson and Dan Mitchell, The End

Starting at the beginning with the larger than life size cave person about to hurl a rock, and with hints of the big bang, this exhibition simultaneously conjures our possible, some would say, likely, dénouement. Seemingly using concrete, a semblance of lasting weight, it turns out to be empty inside and easy to push over. These materials concretise the sometimes solid sounding, hollow actions of our apparently sophisticated world. Both stark and comic-al, here is the destruction of our planet and interconnected neanderthal behaviour. It’s a warning!

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The internal heating pipes asked to be photographed! Once again the young man who opened the door to me (you have to ring), who could have been rather fed up as I arrived a mere 5 minutes before closing, was solicitous and shyly infromative, taking me into the back afterwards so I could see examples of the upcoming exhibition.

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These vaginal ceramics in their basket wombs were by Kris Lemsalu, an artist I had earlier seen in the main Art House. One of the 20 female artists ‘pushing sulpture forward’ as featured here

 Also to see in Estonia

KUMU contemporary art museum in Kadriorg Park, Tallin.

And don’t miss the ambitious art park planned for the bay of Pärnu, where each of the countries of the nine states of the Baltic Sea including Finland, Sweden, Estonia plus the autonomous Åland in the downtown of Pärnu. The Victoria and Albert Museum, in Dundee has recently opened in the harbour if you are visiting Scotland any time soon.

The Spellbinders

by Aleardo Zanghellini published by Lethe Press. 3 stars

The Spellbinders is an historical novel set between 1299 and the early 1330s which spans the life (and some) of Edward II, King of England and his loves. Penned by Eleardo Zanghellini in 2018, an Italian born professor of Law and Social Theory at Reading Law School, this is his first novel although he has previously written The Sexual Constitution of Political Authority.

It is a quick read, broken into short sections which move back and forth in time, and there is a large cast with a broad setting which includes the vales of Scotland. Curly flourishes head all 334 pages with the name of the author on every left one – The Spellbinders is perhaps hinting at the design of the Renaissance manuscript.

The monarch Edward, who came to the throne at the tender age of 22, is renowned as ‘England’s most infamous homosexual prince’ (Lethe Press). Despite his marriage to Isabella of France aged 12 years, the book’s joint hero is actually Piers Gaveston, common soldier from across the Channel, whom Edward made second most important gent in the land.

As we have come to expect from the bulk of the factual information surviving from those Medieval times, there is a great deal of political debate between Earls and other men jostling for power. However, taking equal place in the narrative are the erotic exploits of Edward, Piers and, after the latter’s violent murder, those of Lord Audley and Hugh Damory the Young Dispenser. We do learn about the naive and accepting Isabella; Margaret the very practical King’s cousin who was married to Gaveston; of Pembroke and Lancaster, but it’s the graphic sex which takes centre stage.

Apparently as true to real life as possible, Zanghellini, in the tradition of historical writers, imagines the unknown details and pens them with relish, introducing a useful hidden corridor and other devices to link the famous events and add atmosphere. He relishes physical description (“the Younger Dispenser: fiery-haired and good-looking in a base, brutish sort of way – which meant not good-looking at all, really.” ) and there is a seer with a curse as well as the ghost of a monk with self-professed “woman’s hands” who stitches Gaveston’s head back on and embalms him. He has clearly researched the flora, costume and typical pets of the day, with many a gilly flower, and phrases such as “a mohair cape about her shoulders” and, “‘a camel’, gasped Isabella. ‘What’s to love about a camel, dear husband?'”

This is oerhaps a book for reading on the train or by the poolside.

Pitzhanger Manor

Pitzhanger Manor, also with Soane’s Kitchen (restaurant and bistro), events, shop and park. Currently showing Anish Kapoor. March 2019

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Pitzhanger Manor, Ealing, London (official photograph)

 

There is a playful air in the central gallery where Contemporary Art meets Hall of Mirrors. Like little children at the funfair we want to touch the shiny surfaces and test what is real and what is not.

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Anish Kapoor, opening exhibition, Pitzhanger Manor, London (official photograph)

Disorientated, I wonder where I am, what my relationship is to the space and the other people around me. Sparsely placed in a white box of a room, these apparently simple, shiny cubes and discs shimmer and float. They distort and shift reality so much that I question gravity itself

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Art mimics architecture

Transported through portals, doors beyond doors, the floor extends out of the window. The central tardis-shaped work beguiles and bemuses. Although my feet are firmly planted on the floor, I get the feeling that I am teetering on the edge of a cliff.

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I was not the first to want to put my head in this hole!

Looking somewhat like a front loading washing machine, we peer in. All unsuspecting we find we are spun around, divided into segmented slices, ending up all topsy turvy and stained in primary colours.

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Right side up in silver; heads down in rainbow coloured contact lenses

Leaving this rabbit hole world I explore the rest of the house. The sun shines through the amber and Derek Jarman blue stained glass, making patterns and further playing with what is real and what not.

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Unexpected doorways; spines of puce.

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Trellises on the ceiling; walls of scarlet glimpsed through mirrors

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Monasterial archways; a vestibule of make-believe marble; Classical columns, charyatids and statuary.

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Unexpected urns and hand-painted aviaries delight me and I spend a happy afternoon in this fascinating place.

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Roof scape, Pitzhanger Manor
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The Upper Drawing Room, Pitzhanger Manor

Sir John Soane’s Museum, London This was his main residence and is now a museum containing some of the furniture and artefacts from Pitzhanger – well worth visiting.

To get what the Pitzhanger Manor curators have done in collaboration with Kapoor, you should imaginatively travel to Soane’s self-built London home in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, with his collection of antiquities and artworks.

The London Evening Standard newspaper

5 stars in The Telegraph

5 stars Timeout, London

4 stars The London Evening Standard

Double page spread in The Times

Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery can be found in Ealing – Mattock Lane, London, W5 5EQ.

3 Days in Quiberon

Emily Atef/ Germany Austria France/ 2018/ 115 mins

@Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Mon 18 Feb 2019. German/French with subtitles.

Actress Romy Schneider is at the core of the emotionally disturbing 3 Days In Quiberon, the 2018 film from writer-director Emily Atef which won seven Lola’s at the German Film Awards last year. The versatile Marie Bäumer plays Schneider who was born in Vienna, Austria in 1940 into a stage family, and who made her name before she was 20 years old in the Sissi Trilogy in which she played the Empress Elisabeth of Austria. In this, her most famous role, Schneider epitomises the innocent and regal bearing of the subject.

This containment and control are evident in the tense modern film, as are the opposing emotions and behaviour of desperation, hysteria, and recklessness. The harrowing interview which the profoundly disturbed Schneider gave to the magazine Stern, on which the film is based (shortly before her son tragically died and during what we know was the final year of her own life) is the main section. Taking place at a spa where she repaired to reputedly recover from the excesses of alcohol and drugs, Schneider’s family have announced that they do not support the addict version of her which Atef depicts. The French-Iranian director is said to have admitted to fictionalizing parts of the interview in making the film, and the connections she draws are very clear: a drunken Schneider cries that her life has fallen apart, that the balance between her work and her children is wrong, and that she does not know how to solve it. Plied with champagne by the journalist, she ‘reveals’ a side to herself which she apparently hadn’t previously, although he then purports to be affected by her plight and it is unclear how blunt the final piece actually is. We are not sure if we can trust her judgment by this time – we have seen how changeable and malleable she is, and how she often makes decisions which are not in her own interest or that of her children. Are we to believe that she is now in control?

The film is in black and white with brooding skies and sharply contrasting angles and lines. To match the constantly switching moods, Atef utilises very short scenes – snippets of interchange or single shot outcomes. Just as the focus is on the characters and their reactions to Schneider, so 50% of the frames are realistic close-ups showing their humanity; wrinkles, under-eye shadows and all. When the camera retreats showing wild Breton seascapes and wide sweeps of the angular hotel we are shocked by the bleak outlook and impersonality of the surroundings.

Here is the helplessness, the hopelessness of the human condition. I didn’t feel charmed by Schneider, I didn’t feel her charisma. Personally I felt a sadness and confusion. I saw her addiction, a woman with mental health problems who needs help – struggling to help herself, the people around her are awe struck by her and using her to their own ends.

It isn’t all depressing; there are a few humorous episodes around the plain food to which she is restricted, and a lively early scene in a local cafe where she is full of wine-induced conviviality and fun, albeit OTT with strangers. However, the viewer is left with a heavy heart and much sadness after witnessing such a lot of media, and self-abuse. A sense of foreboding lingers.

399 Days – Rachel Kneebone

Contemporary sculpture at the V & A, London.

399 Days is a tower of white ceramic, a monumental contortion of barbie legs by Rachel Kneebone  at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Standing nine panels high and seven around, each one the size of a large floor tile, it consists, as much of her sculpture has, of female human limbs sticking out at all angles – a 3D tumble of lower body parts. Holding its own amongst the classics, it is sited cheek by jowl with traditional male statuary – sculpted nudes the colour of blanched almonds: the Rape of Prosperpina, the massively violent Samson Smiting a Philistine (by Giambologna), Jason, and Narcissus (incidentally the name of one of her other works) – and is redolent of Rodin’s famous studies but lacking the muscularity.

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Samson Smiting a Philistine by Giambologna in the V & A Museum, London

Complex in both its sexuality and asexuality, the shiny, almost alabaster surface is similar to, but contrasts with, the matt marble skin we are used to in the halls of the Greeks. 399 Days is chaotic and disorderly next to the Classical form and structure of the ancient ones. Some of Kneebone’s have neat, hairless hints of vaginal cracks – there is nothing natural or wild about them except the overall disarray and partial sculptural splits as if they broke in firing and have been purposely left as reminders of the changes we undergo through age, and of imperfection. These types of legs in fact call to mind the physical ‘perfection’ of upright models with oh-so-slim pins. Have these shop dummy legs been discarded? Are they unwanted or rejected? If so, by whom? 

We think of  more contemporary artists such as Louise Bourgeois’ Untitled (with foot) who subverts the feminine image in order to both comment and question.

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Untitled (with foot) by Louise Bourgeis

There are sections which include the ornate decoration familiar from Old Master’s picture frames: cloth and wreaths cast in cold porcelain not gilt, orbs and semi-orbs which are a recurring theme in her work (The Area on Whose Brink Silence Begins 2015), and which I then notice on building facades and ornate Rococo altars as I make my way around London. Referencing the art and decoration which went before hers in this way forces us to site the work in the context of the voyeurism and appropriation of that tradition.  

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399 Days by Rachel Kneebone

More chilling are the images of mass graves which are invoked – interlaced piles of chilly nudeness – again that implication that human life is worthless, throw-away, making it impossible to identify them. There is no personal element, as if that would make us question the apparently random distribution. On closer inspection, it is clear that some have pregnant bellies though they are the bodies of girls not women. There is no prettiness, and there are some arrangements and juxtapositions which almost trick the viewer into forgetting they are life copies, where the legs protrude from a central point, for example, like a bunch of stalks with feet as flower heads.

Depending how you approach the Medieval and Renaissance Collection where Kneebone’s sculpture is situated, you may glance into the Cast Courts and see Master Oudrey‘s plaster version of the original 1st century AD stone Trajan’s Column, ‘iconic monument of the classical world’.

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Trajan’s Column, V & A Museum, London

It is a frieze of low relief from Rome depicting the history of Trajan’s campaign. Once again using a form from an earlier era, 399 Days literally turns such figures upside down, depriving them of the rest of their body and fascinating the onlooker who must tour and crane to appreciate her artistry.

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Lengths of white fake flowers adorn a shop in Regent’s Street London. 


This V&A is at Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL. There is also a new one in Dundee., Scotland.

Vu – Compagnie Sacékripa

Compagnie Sacékripa were part of the Manipulate festival (2 – 9 Feb 2019) at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh. 5 stars.

See also my review of Void, part of the same Manipulate Festival, when it first showed in Edinburgh during the Fringe 2018.

In Vu – translated as ‘viewed’ or ‘seen’ from the French – we spy on a grown man sitting on a tiny chair, knees squashed into his chest, playing. Ostensibly alone with household items and inhabiting a persona somewhere between adult and boy, he ruefully explores their usefulness. In a series of lightly connected actions and experiments – some mundane (making tea), some scientific (what happens if I…?), and others just plain silly (lots of stuff with marshmallows) – Etienne Manceau entertains us.

A one-man show from Compagnie Sacékripa, this 50 minute mime show is full of delight and laughs. Years of juggling and acrobatics on the streets with fellow performers has clearly honed Manceau’s acute sense of timing and meticulous measurement. He displays an acrobat’s precise judgment of distance (where do I position the spring board so that when I bounce off I land exactly on his shoulders? / where do I put the sugarlump so that when I ping it across the table it will land where I want it to?) and the brilliant bungling of the clown. The tricks are not always perfect but it seems clear that they could be if he wanted them to be. Indeed his deep sighs and wry facial expressions when something doesn’t work out are very much part of the humour.

Initially vaguely curious and then annoyed by the audience, he enters down stage right and leaves his coat on the only empty seat in Traverse 2. Wiping his feet on an imaginery mat (perhaps OCD, perhaps simply well trained) he steps across the line and becomes absorbed, somewhat resignedly, in his private antics – leaving us as mere onlookers.

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He makes himself paper fingers and at one point chops off the ends with a very sharp knife – aargh!

Gradually, however, there’s a change of emphasis: the odd sly glance outwards or a hint of a gesture draws us into increasingly frustrated situations when, next thing we know, he has subtly beckoned someone onto the stage and has an accomplice, nay a dogsbody. It is charming, although he is not; he somehow cajoles and wheedles help with the merest hint of an expression or tap of a finger. Was the man a part of the show? Probably not, but he certainly added value and was endlessly patient despite being made to look foolish at times. Without a word until the final ‘merci’, Manceau insinuates, cocks an eyebrow, purses his lips and all but grimaces as he communicates his needs, playing on our willingness, yet always holding the power.

Sparsely crafted and spaciously presented by the performer with Sylvain Cousin’s ‘outside eye’, we come to love this character, always shambolic in his gait and posture. It’s not much more than a series of japes and yet has a powerful and lasting effect. Afterwards I found I was hyper aware of my own gestures as I hung my umbrella hook over the door knob. My life felt better – an effect only really good theatre can conjure.

If Vu is representative of the calibre of the Manipulate festival’s programme this year, I recommend you snap up any last available tickets.

 

In the title photo you see Manceau playing with fire as so many little children are drawn to do.

Vu is showing in March 2019 in France and Egypt. See their website for further venues