Made in China’s Chris Brett Bailey performs most of this show sitting at a table, reading from a script. It’s essentially a lecture, with jazz hands at the end.
I’m giving it five stars because it has balls the size of coconuts. It’s also really well executed. Chris Bret Bailey’s performance is both frenetic and controlled. The production is well paced and suitably minimal. The band are great, genuinely.
The danger is that everything is set up, like John Cage’s Lecture on Nothing, to platform the text. And the text itself purports (like John Cage’s Lecture on Nothing?) to be a work of great importance. It deals with themes of death and life, offers commentaries on just about everything in between, and is, accordingly, often proselytizing. There’s a knowingness to all this – the whole show in fact has a feeling of wry grandiloquence – but that’s no get out clause.
I say that this is dangerous because it prompts comparison to other works that are bigger and (I hate to say it) better. Like in particular I thought of Henry Miller – who also has a bricolage style, a brokenness, a vulgarity, and kind a commitment to answering the big questions. Against Miller, Chris Bret Bailey’s text feels a bit immature: its zaniness is perhaps too contrived, its targets are perhaps too soft, and it perhaps fails to arrive at a definite point.
The comparison is unflattering then, but also totally unfair. It’s a credit to the writing and to the production that it asks to be considered in this way at all. It is a production that I personally will think about and talk about. It’s weird and conceited, but also has that quality (too rare) of seeming plugged in, like it’s the product of an actually thinking mind.