Peter McMaster's all-male Wuthering Heights (HHHHH) revisits a novel we think we know (if only courtesy of Kate Bush). In company with Murray Wason, Chris Hall, Nick Anderson and Thom Scullion – whose own memories and experiences feed into the material – McMaster uses Bronte's characters as a portal into myths and truths about "being a man". Some moments muse on the father/son legacy that can shape attitudes. Others – as when Wason and McMaster don dresses – offer glimpses of the tenderness and sensibilities we tend to tag as maternal or feminine, and yet, like the full-throated singing or the mischievous sparks of comedy, the expression of emotions emerges out of the bouts of play-acting with a touching sincerity, an integrity of purpose and of witness.
And though the ensemble dance to the iconic Kate Bush track is funny and fruity and exemplifies the energies of lads' camraderie, the heart of the piece lies in the thoughtful questioning of attitudes to men. In among all the issue-led work that's made nowadays, this is neglected territory: McMaster's Wuthering Heights is a significant, and intensely honest, opening up of that no-man's-land.
Rosana Cade, in My Big Sister Taught Me This Lapdance (HHHHH), ventures into disputed terrain with a solo performance that pitches her, and her audience of one, into an intimate encounter with the business of, yes, lap-dancing. For Cade, whose sister has worked in sex clubs, this is more than a test of performative skills: as a lesbian feminist, it's a test of her beliefs and her familial relationship. For the onlooker? Actually, I cried. Maybe knowing Cade's previous work made watching her offering sexualised in-yer-face nakedness – albeit in a wig that helped alter her character – hugely painful. Afterwards, as an anonymous voyeur, listening to Cade's sister talking (on tape) about lap-dancing while peeping in on Cade and her next client, the inner debate on my gut reactions kicked in. Brave, clever, provocative – by an artist to cherish.
Thomas McCulloch continues to prove his brilliance as a poet of the visual and visceral. His solo, Gelatin (HHHH), used darkness sparked by UV light, bottles of tonic water and a line of shiny metallic bowls to conjure a shifting mosaic of images. The liquid foamed magically white through the mirk. A near-naked McCulloch slurped, spattered, slopped the stuff about like an animal, a shaman, a slave ... One's own imagination danced through depths of associations triggered by his actions. The man's a joy to watch.
No space to detail why Whatever Happened to Harry (HHHH) was a wee cracker of a show. But sitting inside the darkened car (parked in Midland Lane), with writer/performer Lou Prendergast assuming different characters to conjure a sense of her estranged father, Harry, made the pulses race and the nerves tingle – wow!