I think people at this year's TBA festivities have been spoiled by the likes of Mike Daisey, Daniel Beaty, and other folks who, while certainly subversive and cutting-edge and blah-de-blah-blah-blah, also offer up plenty of good old fashioned straightforward entertainment to keep you engaged. How else to explain why more than a dozen people simply walked out of tonight's performance by Jim Fletcher of a solo piece written and directed by Tim Etchells? The show was certainly not as accessible as they come, but it was also far from entirely unapproachable, and was barely an hour long. People who walked out and who made noise in preparing to walk out and who thereby disrupted us all: What did you expect? This is performance art here, and some of it's gonna be funny and fun and entertaining, and some of it's going to be super-heady, confrontational, and/or pretentious and boring. That doesn't mean you should walk out and disrupt the people who paid to see the show and feel obliged to stick it out whether they like it or not. Fucking pussies.
But beyond even that, "Sight is the Sense that Dying People Tend to Lose First" wasn't even all that walk-out worthy.
Sure, it was a little tedious, but there were some very interesting moments and it sparked much dialogue amongst my group over $1.95 happy hour burgers at Jake's afterwards. The premise is simple and unwavering: Fletcher walks out on stage, stands there with a bottle of water, and free-associates through a litany of mostly uncomplicated pronouncements. Some of the pronouncements are obviously factual ("Water and ice are the same thing"), while others are subjective ("Busy adults cannot make good parents"), and still others feel like interpretations culled from personal experience that somehow escape rightness or wrongness ("Men drink beer"; "Women with large breasts make good lap dancers.") There is no thematic connection between the statements, no through-line, no "plot," and admittedly, it is wearying listening to a monotonous stream of unrelated sentences for an hour. Still, I endorse this production.
For one thing, in its own quiet way, it is technically masterful. Fletcher has memorized hundreds of random idea fragments, and recites them fluidly and seamlessly, with nary a moment where you suspect he might be reaching to remember the next line. Many people refuse to try acting because they think memorizing dialogue is hard, but most dialogue has a conversational rhythm that makes it easy to remember. You are having a conversation with someone and the next line is usually a logical reply to what was said before; it's call and response and anyone can do that if they try. Monologues can be a little tougher because you must generate your own calls and responses, but still there is generally a logical progression of ideas, and if you ever lose your place you at least can think back on what you just said and come up with the gist of what would logically come next. But Fletcher has no call to respond to, no logical map to guide him. His sentences associate just enough to convince you he is speaking from a written script (example: "Monkeys are afraid of humans. Humans are afraid of bears.:) and not making things up on the spot, but do not associate enough to create any kind of order that would assist in memorization. What he is doing is much harder than he makes it look.
Secondly, some of what Fletcher says is quite funny. Not in a jokey way usually, but more because he tends to describe mundane things in ways you don't expect ("A stone is something that can be used to sink a bag full of unwanted kittens to the bottom of a river"), which can make you laugh but which can also make you see said thing in a way you hadn't before. ("Tears are drops of water that fall from your eyes... Sweat is drops of water that comes out of different parts of your skin.")
I was not entertained by "Sight," but I am still thinking about it, and expect to be thinking about it and discussing it with others who saw it for some time. It is conceptual performance art and what it
has to say involves the slippery, elusive nature of language itself. I feel this monologue could be taught in a literary theory class. I feel that I am not smart enough nor currently dedicated enough to
give it the full analysis it deserves. I feel the French would love it. Boxing is not a form of dance but sometimes resembles one.