Satirical punk gig theatre attacks predictable targets
This article is from 2016.
Even at a venue as eclectic as Summerhall, explicitly identifying as 'performance art' is a brave move. Unfairly condemned as self-indulgent, the fluidity of the form challenges audiences and refuses an easy sell. Rachael Clerke and the Great White Males, however, are fearless in a show that matches rudimentary musical skills with a single-minded satire on alpha-male masculinity and architecture.
Cuncrete does struggle to escape the pull of one strong idea: a caricature of an entrepreneur condemns his own aspirational philosophy by being an obsessive idiot. Clerke's Archibald Tactful bangs on about the wonders of brutalist architecture and the right to own a house, snorts some concrete and rocks out to the growling punk of his band. There's a righteous rage at the housing market and profiteering landlords beneath the bellowing, but that is sometimes lost in the noise and repetition.
Clerke has a point: contemporary capitalists have been playing the fool at the expense of the population for the past 30 years, and their alpha male posturing is really irritating, but the combination of scrappy punk and hectoring rhetoric betrays a limited response to the situation.
Evoking punk rock by featuring a band who have only recently picked up the instruments – even though Little Keith rocks it hard and tight on the drums – only recalls bands like Bikini Kill who used the same aesthetic. Equally, the drag king is a fine way to mock masculine stereotypes, but it has been used to more incisive effect by Diane Torr.
Clerke's approach reveals her knowledge of past performance art, and marries it to a political polemic. Yet by making these associations, Clerke undermines her impact by the comparisons. There is also the problem of the stereotype she attacks. By going for laughs with the bad moustache and suit, the patriarchy has long since changed its look, making the revolutionary impulse seem nostalgic for a time when the enemy identified itself so clearly. Nevertheless, the show is pacy, punchy and at least begins an argument about a serious social ill.
Summerhall, until 26 Aug (not 22), 10pm, £10 (£8).