Take Me Somewhere

The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein:Notorious

Tramway, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

two stars

Now in its third year at venues across Glasgow, Take Me Somewhere is again deploying contemporary performance work to make us examine the socio-political issues that affect us all – and, in the process, question our own attitudes to them. Enter Lauren Barri Holstein in her assumed personna of ‘The Famous...’. Off-stage, Holstein has a proven academic side, researching contemporary feminism, popular culture, and ‘ugly feelings’.

On-stage she channels that research into a performance of waywardly explicit actions that are intended to shock and yet entertain us – it’s a very tricky tightrope to negotiate and Holstein, together with her collaborators Krista Vuori and Brogan Davison, probably raises more laughs than eyebrows (or indeed thoughtful awareness) with the grotesquerie that involves sourcing gloopy-gummy snake sweets from her vagina or flagellating herself with a dead octopus.

Did this imagery – snake, tentacles – lead audiences to think ‘oh yes, Medusa – that much-maligned woman’ or did they laugh in disconcerted glee at a cabaret of self-inflicted punishment with a pop music soundtrack?

Holstein herself is aware of how this tack of exposing herself so graphically – with live video streaming ensuring that close-ups of naked genitals and probing fingers loom large on the backcloth – can maybe detract/distract from her avowed serious intent.

Towards the end, slumped in an armchair, she delivers a monologue that says as much, but then flips that into yet another ‘false facade’ because no matter how much she strips away, morphing from the grey-spectral witch of the opening sequences to the hula-hooping Lolita who burps her fizzy drink so cutely, it’s always Holstein’s ‘alter-ego’ The Famous who’s acting up.

So is Notorious more than the sum of Holstein’s private parts? At times, yes. In an overlong 90 minutes there are moments of shrewd wit and fleeting beauty with Yvonne Strain valiantly entering into the mood and almost-costumes as the on-stage BSL interpreter.