Theatre Critic and Journalist

Just Dandy

Just Dandy

Like Maxie Szalwinska, I spent Saturday afternoon at The Riverside indulging in a spot of Peachy Coochy, a mischievous event led by the impish David Gale. Though I was aware of its monthly existence at Toynbee Studios, this was my first experience of the form. It wasn’t entirely as I had expected it to be, but nonetheless, I found it thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking.

Peachy Coochy derives from a Japanese practice (pecha kucha) of limiting architectural design pitches to a strict form. Each presenter must work under the constraint of having precisely twenty slides, each of which appears for only twenty seconds, to give a presentation lasting six minutes and forty seconds. No more, no less; endless possibility.

What I had expected was a more immediately responsive form, whereby the presenter has not seen the images and must find inspiration from them to give twenty seconds of unplanned insight. In such a form, the struggle to articulate and the rigour of expiring time would push failure to the forefront and enforce genuine liveness.

What surprised me was how unwilling many of the artists were to submit to the whims of passing time. Gary Winters of Lone Twin counted out the seconds. Tim Etchells took a stopwatch with him onto stage. Rotazaza’s Ant Hampton left ample space, by creating a minimal text to fit comfortably into each twenty second demarcation. It seemed that no one wanted to play with vulnerability, to empower chance and risk failure.

That said, had my expectations been the case, the event would have strong similarities to a game-show. While this adds risk, it also becomes a great leveller, with little room for possible interpretation and play with the form. After a while, game-shows begin to blur into one – the difference between individual editions is eradicated. The individual attempt gets lost in the repeated framework. Regardless of questions, players and outcomes, The Weakest Link boils down to Anne Robinson swivelling on a pedestal. Watch too much Blankety Blank and each edition reduces to the a row of famous faces cracking funnies. Too much emphasis on the form and the liveness becomes irrelevant through a process of abstraction.

It was the radical differences between presentations – the stamping of personality onto the formal constraints – that captured me on Saturday. It enabled Gary Winter to measure out the time with a metronomic style and Lois Keidan to cram it full at breakneck pace. It allowed Ursula Martinez to sway towards stand-up and Adrian Heathfield to swing into intellectualism. It allowed wispy artiness and concrete polemic; stillness and movement; silliness, sentiment and sense.

But, Peachy Coochy also allows for that failure, for the dislocation of pictures and words, for one person to take control of each element, for a presentation about this presentation with photos of itself and its audience. Because, therein is the joy of Peachy Coochy – it is whatever you want it to be.

One Comment

  1. Oh yes.

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