Tai Shani’s first major performance project since DC: Semiramis for which she was nominated and collectively won the Turner Prize in 2019 takes place in the underground chamber of Farringdon’s notorious nightclub: Fabric. The play featured an original live score composed by Shani’s long-term collaborators Maxwell Sterling and Richard Fearless (Death in Vegas) alongside digital animations by Adam Sinclair.
Upon arrival the audience was greeted into the cavernous underground space of Fabric, where silence strangely infiltrated the chambers clubgoers would usually dance in, evoking a harrowing first look at tonight’s performance venue. After an informal drinks reception, the audience was invited to take a seat. Atop the stage, four figures posed whilst holding red books. Two female-presenting characters engage in an unclear dialogue about their relationship. One is older, they speak of profound love and intimacy that feels like a spiritual awakening and is left unclear whether theirs is a sexual relationship or not. Shortly after, lyrics from Rihanna’s ‘We found love in a hopeless place’ interject what was previously a highly lexical and referential play.
The figures took turns chanting the poetic verses that made up Shani’s play, oscillating between motifs of eroticism, dark power, the mystical, feminist theory and revolution. Said speakers, akin to embodied apparitions, soon turned into voices that seemed to be advising a room of the living; bridging life and death and making us wonder what will remain of society.
“My bodily remains, your bodily remains, and all the bodily remains that ever were, and ever will be.”
The prosaic verses connoted a sense that these speakers were, in fact, representations of the four horsemen of apocalypse providing us with details of their infamous yet characterising attributes; death (“I am cannibal I will not die”), destruction (imperialism), famine (“artificial poverty”), pestilence (society’s toxicity). Unnervingly, it felt that the audience had descended into the depths of the underworld and been guided into the world of a not-so-distant future by merely looking around the state of our present world.
The denouement of the performance reminds us that this is “a reading of a play for comrades” and to be in denial of the intersectionality of today’s social situation(s) is to dismiss the play’s warning to resist and wake up. The media has assured us that we’re on the brink (if not already) of an apocalypse and if we dare neglect its advice, we are letting such impending doom(s) manifest and remain in our lives.