The Workers Theatre: launch party and interview


Kinning Park Complex, March 23

Hosting a launch party are The Workers Theatre, a new cooperative company that follows the premise of cooperative ownership: all jobs shared and all employees also employer and owner. Henry Bell and Harry Giles, two of the members, say that after the success of “Megaphone”, their recent Kickstarter for representation of minority artists, the main goal is to get their theatre open to the public. For the moment, however, they have a short term goal of a festival in the summer.

The first act of the night, Mimoru Iriguchi, surprises the audience with a hand-built projection rig that doubles as a helmet. On his face, the first projection says it all: true 3D. It seems gimmicky. His act continues to gain applause; seeming slightly timid at first, he begins singing as “Lionel Richie”, his take on the Metro Goldwyn Mayer lion. Taking off his costume to reveal a dress, he asks an audience member to put it on and duet with him, now as singer Celine Dion. He continues stripping, finishing the odd karaoke in his briefs with a gong projected over his face. Overall, this is highly entertaining and original, the visual comedy and situational improv done very well and holding the experimental gimmick up.

The Workers Theatre promotes “experimental, but not shit”. Henry gives the example of the Fluxus art movement as one of his favourite experiments, also letting on to how, much younger, he was bewildered by the 1973 Craig-Martin piece “An Oak Tree”, but yet finds no pleasure in it now. The idea that experiments in art require the audience to be in certain mind-sets is well documented. However, Harry is quick to point out that “populist, but not shit” was there to match it, and that they just hope to host good art.

Following a trail of success, Govan Hill Theatre performs a short monologue of “My Name Is Rachel Corrie”, from the point of view of an activist who laments being local. The writing seems rather repetitious than cyclical when the monologue leads to it’s beginning: Rachel never overcomes her self admitted hypocrisy, instead just acknowledges and moans about it. The acting overall is hyperbolic and slightly tasteless, but would probably work better with the full performance given there was no build up in the monologue.

The final act of the first part is one of the members of the Workers Theatre, Katherine McMahon, who performs a short but hard-hitting conventionally structured slam poem on being trans. Although this might be false inference, it seems the goal is to highlight problems of the LGBT-community itself, in some concerns, not recognising trans peoples’ identity. Historically, marginal groups of transvestites have tended to disbelieve, vocally, transsexuality itself. It is well performed and a good length for it’s effect, especially given the breathing space that follows.

Again, the next section starts strong; Tawona Sithole comes with a goal to imprint a good impression of his Zimbabwean heritage in contrast with Western artistic culture. To achieve this, he performs witty, non-traditional storytelling with a focus on participation. He gives impression of struggle but with humour, as well as some preachy but powerful poetry, and a heavy dose of fun call and response. His act is very successful; leaving the audience warmed and ready to continue.

Rebecca Green came with a goal too, but that might have gotten lost somewhere. First, she reads a stirring and highly impacting excerpt from her book on her work as a nurse, within which a dying patient gives off heart-breaking but wise impressions of overall nihilism, doom being the forefront. Her writing bringing even herself to tears whilst reading it. However, she then takes a megaphone to perform a gimmicky comedy act that disjoints the original purpose, and whilst it has some funny parts the gimmick wears thin.

The Workers Theatre comes from a part of Marxism often overlooked in reappraisal, that of democratising the workplace. The idea that art should “entertain and radicalise” can have, as Harry and Henry point, many meanings, one being simply the same as their populist and experimental stances respectively. Yet even out of thought D.I.Y. punk ideas seem obvious to the ability of the Theatre to move on short notice from Govan Hill Baths to Kinning Park Complex.

The final act, Black Doves, are pretty bad, uninspiring synth-pop with too much focus on the lyricist and no real songwriting elsewhere. However, the evening leaves a good impression for the future of opening the theatre, as the Workers wish, although I would suggest they should get more investing musical performances.

[Tess Dawson]

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