First posted on November 21, 2017
I feel a duty to know the history of people like me. Iwant to learn queer history. Local history, too. It seems like the right thing to do. I should know who died for my right to exist or marry. Young’uns: marriage rights are important for things like inheritance and medical decisions. Maybe real important for a group who were often disowned and dying??. I don’t just consume media when it has the gays in it. I don’t have to anymore. I’m no longer a child reading certain news stories trying to find something I could not name. As a young child I had a fascination with gay men and transvestites. This was about as far as queer representation got when I was a kid. The only lesbians I knew were on Friends. I remember hearing that a primary school teacher was “gay” but not knowing really what that meant.
Two people from The Terrance Higgings Trust had a stall in the foyer. A performance art piece about the LGBT scene in the 1980s is the perfect place to advertise HIV testing week and remind people HIV/AIDs is still aroundHad an interesting conversation with them. One said that the public these days just talk about AIDs, which is what happens after HIV.
I bought a ribbon.The history of the red ribbon and Visual AIDS Artists Caucus is well worth a read.
The performance began with a near empty stage and a song sampled by ‘The Time Is Now’. ‘John Cena?’ whisper a man on a table behind me. Tables with chairs around them to mimic a pub. That’s part of the staging tonight, the stage itself is near empty, just a chair and boots, but the floor is covered in a map made of white tape - I assume it was of Kings Cross. I don’t even know what that would look like - that Marshman added to over the hour or so. He started with a slow miming dance, walking round the space and stepping on the boots. The first set of recordings begin and he repeats the dance, this time the movements have meaning. It was clever but the movements weren’t that interesting. Was it minimalist or shit? I literally don’t know. Someone tell me!
Marshman was a curator of stories. Some he told to us and a few played over the speakers as he mimed their words. Another neat trick but I struggled to fully understand what was being said. The audio quality was ok, clearly recorded in a large room at a slight distance, just not great for me. The dialog was informal. Not much passion.
He used them to build up a picture of Kings Cross in the 80s and beyond. With little bit of costumes borrowed from friends and some projections.
Stories of cruising & fucking in cars under the bridges. Barmen remembering to ignore those who whistle. Getting dolled up. An art scene and a community.
And then stories of marching in the streets against clause 28.
People starting to get sick.GRID becoming AIDS and of combination therapy changing a death sentence to a life long condition. One audio file is of a “genetic freak”, one in a thousand who didn’t die within a year. Candid talk about an epidemic and those with power who did little. He mentioned Nancy & Ronald Regan then Thatcher. If silence=death then the Regans could be seen as mass murderers. Many see them as such. Thatcher at least mentioned it while in office. Though recently released documents show a reluctance at public health campains.. He projected the ‘Don’t Die of Ignorance’ advert during that segment. Because it wasn’t all parties. These people fought for their rights and their lives. Something that didn’t come through in Marshmans amiable style.
HIV/AIDs wasn’t the only change he talked about. Now the people of have lived in Kings Cross for decades are being forced out by gentrification. A death of a culture. It’s funny how areas become cool for starving artists and counter culture types then as rich people move in the reason for the cool gets priced out.
I think the story that will stick with me was the woman who asked “Is that it? is this all we were fighting for?” I worry that people my age will not remember who fought for us and how it was not even a lifetime ago; it was just thirty years.
After the performance, Marshman asked the audience to come on stage and dance. To recreate for a moment the pub from his stories. The projector played footage of the dance floor in the smoke filled pub and the youngest audience members danced like the awkward teenagers who would have found themselves there.
So how was it?
Kings Cross Remix probably wasn’t going to blow my mind. I’m not from London and I’m not mourning the loss of a community. I’m going to be thinking about the “Is this it” line for a while but not about much else. Not like Christeene who I saw last year at the Arts Centre, whos between song rants had me thinking for days about queerness meaning doing weird shit and about respectability politics. I wasn’t ‘transported’ anywhere. I now sorta know what verbatim theatre is can I can say this isn’t exactly verbatim theatre? He spent a lot of it paraphrasing. The playing audio of others words also might be a bit too literal. Is there a term for a play that isn’t written but is collated? A work built from the words of others. New to me.
It was an ok date and an ok show. Worth leaving the house for. In an interview; Marshman said he had other dates ‘TBC’.