Review: Laurie Brown’s The Daily Grind at Manchester’s Queer Contact Festival

In The Daily Grind, Laurie Brown takes us through an exploration of his sexual development, a gradual process, marked and shaped by discoveries – his mum’s karma sutra book at age ten, coming out in his teens, group sex at age twenty – until Grindr comes along in his late twenties and overturns his sexual landscape.

In the piece we see the use of a combination of techniques to convey the whirlwind rush of this sexual revolution. A hyper-charged, Candy Crush-infused world of high-speed communication and technology is displayed through projections to a screen above Brown’s head. A second after uploading his profile picture, taken in the gym and showing off a practised half-pout, half-growl, a deluge of testosterone and biceps fills his inbox. He plays what is presumably recordings he has made of himself before and after Grindr dates, a kind of audio diary taking us through his encounters, or, put so aptly in the title, his daily grind. Weighted heavily on the use of these different forms of media, I initially felt a detachment from Laurie which I thought let the piece down. However, as it was sustained throughout much of the piece it is perhaps more likely that this reliance on technological media for communication was deliberately enforcing the piece’s narrative of communication and connection, without the need for emotion.

There is a certain ambiguity as to how Brown leads the audience to view his increasingly Grindr-centred lifestyle. The use of audience participation lent the piece’s early stages an air of joviality and excitement, conveying the giddy hedonism of Grindr culture. But with the notches on the bedpost stacking up and encounters becoming more intense, nerves and euphoria giving way to a certain weariness, I wondered if the piece was becoming a critique of the propensity for things to get out of hand. Encountering drugs, violence, adultery, we, and I think Laurie too, are unsure where to stand in relation to this app revolution that has made sex on demand more available and acceptable than ever. But as phone screens light up, scattered like stars across the floor of a darkened stage, a voiceover tones in to describe the magic of a world which exists only for an hour in the confines of one bedroom, the joyous insanity of a thriving, ultra-connected ‘network of fucking’. These observations accumulate to comprise a nuanced and very intimate take on twenty-first century life as a young homosexual male.

Queer Contact Festival
Contact Theatre, Manchester

Also featured here: http://www.thestateofthearts.co.uk/features/review-2/

 

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Eilidh MacAskill’s STUD at Queer Contact Festival

Eilidh MacAskill’s STUD is hilarious. If I’d been told before seeing it that a piece comprised largely of obscure horses metaphors and penis innuendos could be so brilliantly clever and insightful I probably would have been skeptical, but alas, skepticism out the window, I’ve seen it and I’m 100% won over. It sounds odd, and it is totally, totally mad, but there’s something masterful in creating something so completely off-the-wall and yet somehow so accessible that it has pretty much the whole audience rolling around with laughter.

MacAskill as a performer holds nothing back, quite literally. When the blurb mentioned her undeniable femininity, needless to say I didn’t see the arseless chaps coming. MacAskill appears in full cowboy attire, made ridiculous by the chaps framing her exposed buttocks. The lights bare down unrelentingly on the audience, ourselves exposed as she slowly and deliberately climbs the stairs in silence, chomping on a presumably phallic carrot – fantastically uncomfortable for the audience. And MacAskill totally owns it, her sense of timing impeccable as she unapologetically revels in prolonging and intensifying the palpable awkwardness before launching into her first sketch.

MacAskill rejects dualistic notions of gender by mischievously poking fun at stereotypes of masculinity and femininity. She skilfully throws light on the utterly absurd but nevertheless very prevalent notion that one’s genitals can inherently determine one’s personality. In the space she constructs men are smug intellectuals, beard-strokers and self-professed DIY extraordinaires, and girls nurse toy babies and love ponies. Sound familiar? Sure, but in MacAskill’s world, it is the arbitrary nature of these distinctions which underpin the sketches and give way to their hilarity.

Queer Contact Festival
Contact Theatre, Manchester

Also featured here: http://www.thestateofthearts.co.uk/features/37088/