"!" [Hollywood Blues] July 2013 - Page 12

I went to see (it’s not the right word) “!” [Hollywood Blues] a second time, preoccupied by the effect of that ?rst cry for help. It remains preoccupying. I asked Rowena Easton for a script, partly to con?rm what I thought I had heard. Whenever the cast speaks in one voice, it is to voice a cry for help: ‘Help!’ ‘Please help me! ... Help! ...Help! ... Help!’ ‘You’ve got to help me...’ In fact, this is true only for Act One. Sheer vocal presence – those voices, speaking with one accord – is irresistible. We are used to that in song, perhaps, but not in speech. Discord and frenzy give way to the choral. The Chorus is there. But as victim, not witness. This is a plea and a prayer. ‘Help me! ... Help me!’ No-one in the audience laughs at that. “!” [Hollywood Blues] is at once embedded in an ancient tragic tradition, its catharsis of pity and fear, and worlds away from it. ‘Desperate times call for desperate pleasures’: troping the familiar adage, the performance offers itself in the mode of desperation-cum-delight, as a comedy of trauma, forged through what you might describe as ‘emergency speech’ The language of emergency, familiar from the screens of cinema and television, from radio and the press and, increasingly, from that relentless transmission of ‘live images’ of disaster (and, sometimes, of rescue) across the media networks that have gained such traction across the world. This is why “!” [Hollywood Blues] arrives in the form of a (half-) remembered citation, a phrase so familiar you don’t know its origin: ‘All systems crashing!’ ‘I’ve got no control!’ ‘The Terminator’s terminated.’ ‘Help! ... We need help!’ ‘That could cave in any second.’ ‘Women ?rst!’ ‘How many more down there?’ In other words, this is a performance that conspires with our personal archive of mediatised disaster, soliciting our memories of words and images, people and places ... and, especially, of the disaster ?lm, the blues of Hollywood, its revelation of the lure of the vision of catastrophe on our screens. CNN live broadcast 12