Stephen Sutcliffe: Sex Symbols in Sandwich Signs (4 stars)

This article is from 2017

Stephen Sutcliffe: Sex Symbols in Sandwich Signs

Stephen Sutcliffe, 'Casting Through and Scenes from Radcliffe', 2017 / Courtesy of the artist

Vivid reclaiming of post-war outsiderdom

On the big screen in Talbot Rice's downstairs gallery, a film shows two men at work and play on an imagined approximation of a film set. One is a macho brute, who uses his physical prowess to torment and prick-tease the other, more effete, and clearly hopelessly devoted object of his ire. A second film shows the same actors playing similar characters, but with a blunter, more melodramatic denouement.

This is 'Casting Through and Scenes from Radcliffe', Stephen Sutcliffe's latest reimagining of a very northern English form of pop cultural iconoclasm that forms the core of his Edinburgh Art Festival show. The first part is a staged re-enactment drawn from diary entries of film and theatre director Lindsay Anderson while working with actor Richard Harris on his film adaptation of David Storey's novel, This Sporting Life.

The second depicts dramatised scenes adapted from Radcliffe, Storey's Booker Prize-nominated but critically panned 1963 novel. Storey's parallel tale of unrequited cross-class homosexual desire appeared the same year as Anderson's film of This Sporting Life, and the Morrissey-esque title of Sutcliffe's show is taken from a damning review of the book.

Having actors Ali Craig and Paul Cunningham performing Sutcliffe's texts script-in-hand suggests an early rehearsal of a bigger, still unfinished staging. In execution, this is as meta as some of Anderson's own work, both in his 1973 masterpiece O Lucky Man! and his rendering of Alan Bennett's TV play, The Old Crowd, five years later.

Elsewhere are excerpts from the Stirling-based Lindsay Anderson Archive, as well as books and videos from Sutcliffe's own archive, and a showreel of Sutcliffe's short works. With 'Casting Through and Scenes from Radcliffe' at the show's centre, Sutcliffe gives voice to a vivid reclaiming of post-World War Two outsiderdom in terms of class and sexuality. One yearns for it to burst through the screen, so that voice can be given living flesh as well.

Talbot Rice Gallery, until 30 Sep, free.

Stephen Sutcliffe: Sex Symbols in Sandwich Signs 

  • 4 stars

Exhibition expanding upon themes in the artist's work, including self-doubt, obsession, cultural constructs and class conflict.