Domestic II

Manchester’s Word of Warning describe Domestic II as a ‘one-off, never to be repeated trip around a building in transition. Intimate interactions, homely conversations and domestic dramas played out in a block of flats…’  Set on the ground floor and 15th floor of Matthias Court in Salford, there were three evenings of performance, and a drop in Saturday daytime installation.  I am here on the Saturday night.  Even as you enter through gates with warning signs, through a typical building site gatehouse, this place has the feel of a building with stories to tell.

Ellie Stamp’s performance Are You Lonesome Tonight? casts her as the secret love child of Elvis.  Built on a cleverly woven thread of narrative, music and games, Ellie asks ‘What is the difference between an imaginative thought and a delusional belief?’  We participate in games that produce single numbers that could define our lives.  There are coincidences and misinterpretations.  Memories become unclear.  Themes overlap and recur in slightly different ways.  Really powerful performance that works its way right into your brain.

Ria Hartley’s My Brother’s Father is an installation and live performance that looks at an abusive childhood relationship.  Set in an empty, semi-derelict flat, formative memories are hidden in the rooms.  In one, you can play an old-fashioned tape player.  In the main room the short stories, written on the wall, can be seen only with an UV torch, like exploring a tomb.  Ria sits surrounded by the tiniest fragments of kitchen life; there is a performance where she carefully makes mugs of tea then destroys them.  Bread is hung like streamers, then cut and left to hang.  I only wish I had more time to read every memory.

We take the lift to the fifteenth floor. It’s slow and feels like it won’t make the trip. At the top there is a blast of chilly air; an open wall somewhere behind the barriers. I would love to explore further; buildings in transition fascinate me.

Cheryl Martin’s Alaska is a surprisingly uplifting story of descent into suicidal depression and her emergence from it.  Based on her poetry collection Alaska, Cheryl uses spoken word, music and illustrated cards to take us through a history of struggling to live up to high expectations.  Despite the high personal cost, there is still incredible beauty in dance.

Glue tells the true story of Louise Wallwein’s meetings with her birth mother, three decades after being put up for adoption, and the realisation that she could never be part of that family.  Beautifully staged with red balloons, boxing gloves, costumes and with wonderful supporting music from Jaydev Mistry, this story cuts to the heart of who really are your family, and why does it matter?  Very moving, and at times filled with humour and joy, this is a fascinating story.

What is it about intimate performances in interesting locations that makes the narrative more powerful? For example, Shrine of Everyday Things, or Angel Meadow? This is intimate work that you can’t just sit back and watch.  You have to commit emotionally to the work, and you may have to participate.  In return, you get powerful, emotionally engaging narrative and performance that make you think about the issues and how they may relate to yourself and others in the room.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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