Presented as part of the international selection of the festival Take Me Somewhere in Glasgow, Guerrilla envisions a future of increasing political unrest culminating in a world conflict in 2023 – a premise that certainly speaks to the pessimist in me.
The Barcelona-based company El Conde de Torrefiel uses an immersive fusion of performance, dance, video, and sound, playing on the dialogue between stage and screen. The juxtaposition of text and bodies draws attention to the fragility of the scenes taking place on the stage, as the performers attend a conference, take part in a tai chi lesson, and go to a rave, while the screen delivers messages of increasing despair. The result is hypnotic.
At the opening of the performance, we face the actors as they attend a conference in 2019, delivered in Italian by artist Romeo Castellucci. The screen introduces the dystopian premise of the play – a global state of political instability, expressed in raging civil wars, rising populism, and general anxiety. The script then singles out some of the performers, in Kafka-like style, with their names reduced to single letters – K, W, or D. Performers are selected locally for each representation, and the text blends fiction with authentic anecdotes taken from interviews. Their stories expose the intermingling between the participants’ lives and historical tragedies, with mentions of the London 2005 bombings, or the 2007 Glasgow airport attack. In the wake of a year filled with slaughters, within and beyond Europe – one thinks of Nice, of Orlando, or Istanbul – the idea of the encounter between individual trajectories and large-scale catastrophes is one that resonates powerfully.
This introduction is followed by a conversation between a man and a woman (K) about love and politics, superimposed on a tai chi class. There is a jarring contrast between the quietness of the scene, as bodies move slowly in the hushed atmosphere of a studio, and the despair evinced by the text above. At the same time – and this is a feeling that the third, and last part of the production, further delves into – the whole script has a sense of uncanny familiarity, as if you were reading a conversation between you and your friends. Or then maybe my social circle is just overly serious. The divide between stage and screen makes the bodies of the dancers seem deprived of agency, oblivious to the dark script that is being played out right above them as they dance with their backs to us in the final stage of the production.
Starting from the idea that ‘when the art world starts taking the piss, there’s going to be a bloodbath’, Guerrilla portrays the unbearable lightness of living in an age where ‘fascism is vintage’. When presenting the show, Jackie Wylie, the artistic director of Take Me Somewhere and formerly head of Glasgow’s legendary venue The Arches, expressed the wish that some, in the audience, would be ‘ex-clubbers’. Here’s hoping that her wish was fulfilled, but please do not take this as a prerequisite to enjoy this remarkable production.