After Jo Bannon's show 'Alba' at Tramway I followed my friends outside into the rain. It was cold n Scottish outside but they wanted to smoke. (We had that aura you get when you leave theatre space, like waking up). and t b h more pressing than wanting a smoke, Zarina needed the relief. She said the play had kept her tense for half an hour. Because she’d held them so tightly, her hands were literally aching. our art date friends were not surprised. but
I hadn’t gotten nervous
((((Zarina asked how I dealt with horror movies, and there we found difference. I think they are okay, sometimes funny. this lil wimp keeps the lights on)))).
In 'Alba,' Bannon performs alone on stage / short, quiet, light. As it begins, her body unfurls from a white blanket pile on the ground until she eventually stands. Takes time like performers can. I would call it body time. she then fetches an iron, a kettle, crosses the stage back and forth to get her things/ all the while under a white sheet like a Halloween ghost child. funny. and it’s tableaux-funny when she irons her ghost sheet out and folds it neatly over the table, cuts herself a bishop hat from white paper, and makes herself a crisp butty. I eat crisp butties all the time (literally had one for lunch before I got the train to Glasgow to come and see these things in Tramway Im telling the truth). So so so Jo rips out the centre of her crisp butty and holds it up, smiling at her new communion. She makes an image. And okay, yes, RE: terror, at one point she dips her head into a bowl of boiling water (she didn't flinch thoooo so I trust it must have been fiiiine. ice in the bucket? our friend Saira thought). But look, there you have another image: the steam from the kettle, and Jo’s twisty iridescent hair whipping/Wet across the stage like a girl on a beachy holiday advert/ on a stage, in a hole, in Tramway.
These acts were performed under a voice that spoke occasionally and physically above us. It was her mother recalling how the Pope was visiting her hometown when Jo was born. She remembers how the Pope was out n about so the roads were busy as they drove their new baby home from the hospital.
It did, it felt very round. performance like a good sentence, a level shelf. The white sheet, white bread communion, ready salted crisps, spiritualism, were all tags for Jo's albinism. Little symbolic jokes she has lent into, and they were awkward (and good) between being clear, eye-rolly, aesthetic, and class-specific. identity-politic slapstick, I liked it - but I think the pressure of the theatre setting might have been too much for its form. Like too much was put on the shelf, when the shelf was actually just nice on its own. leave it some form. With it being so short, I thought, u know what, make it even shorter and have it as a performance in a gallery. What if she performed it in a white cube on a Sunday morning. Would that be better, if she did it then so the story ran parallel with the gospel. what if she did it one evening in a church, her audience a support group. her mum’s voice echoing through a hall. What if her mum read papal memories from a lecturn. WHAT IF there was a table to one side for the audience, n it just had mugs of boiling water and plates of crisp butties. maybe better than a small theatre focus, an audience in formation. idk, WWJD
Jo Bannon's 'Alba' at Tramway, part of Unlimited Festival