Ballad is too tranquil a term for this intensive exploration of a relationship between the titular Mother, Lucy Gaizely, from the artistic collective 21CC, and her Son, Raedie Gaizely-Gardiner. For almost an hour, they dance, run across the room, literally walk in each other’s shoes and shout at the top of their lungs. Who knew two people could make so much noise?
In this new performance, Gaizely aims at conveying ‘the inherent narcissism’ of motherhood. There is something about mocking your own self-centredness by staging it that can make you a bit dizzy, and, at times, this seems to be the very purpose of the whole act. The performance is accompanied by videos, showing the faces of Lucy and Raidie in close-up, in a form of vertiginous mise en abyme. Sometimes, they hold pieces of papers in their mouths, showing messages such as ‘My son is apathetic’ before chewing them. This device was at its most effective when used as an expressive medium to convey the performers’ deeper feelings, as in a moment where we see Gaizely’s face, looking a bit worried, while her son kicks and punches the air in an energetic re-enactment of his fights with his younger brothers and sisters.
At the opening of their performance, the Mother touches her Son’s face, shoulders, arms, and hands, as if to make sure that everything is still in the right place. Motherly concern at seeing your offspring grow up – and elude you – is at the core of The Ballad, and is expressed in sometimes near-pathological form: ‘You are a product of everything I say and do, and you need steering, my child.’
Parenthood, Gaizely is telling us, is a messy business, and this sense of messiness is certainly one of the things this performance carries to the stage most effectively – sometimes to almost uncomfortable levels. However, the show always maintains a balance between the inherent gravity of its topic and playfulness: the performance is interspersed with a mixtape that brings together Sia’s recent album and Tony Christie’s ‘Show me the way to Amarillo’. At the beginning of the performance, Mother and Son are dressed in skin-coloured leotards and leggings, wearing platinum blond wigs, a reference to Sia’s music videos with young dancer Maddie Ziegler, which they re-enact. When they exchange roles, cross-dressing and ventriloquizing each other, he wearing his mother’s dress and high-heels, she his tracksuits and tee-shirt, she slouches and wriggles uncontrollably while he, mimicking his mother’s slightly more uptight intonation, calmly asserts ‘Readie was keen to get involved’. She/He is quick to contradict him/her: ‘You promised you’d give me 70 quid’. With this portrayal of ‘mother-and-sonhood’, we are given something that is both infinitely intimate and unsettling. In this regard, The Ballad of the Apathetic Son and his Narcissistic Mother squares perfectly with the performances that Take Me Somewhere is presenting us with so far.