Performance Anxiety

Performance Anxiety is a new solo conceived and performed by Brian Lucas, presented by Performance Space and currently playing at Carriageworks. Don’t let the title fool you as it is about more that the state it implies- so much more.

This performance opens with an example of the act at its most mundane and goes on to use this premise to explore the psyche of a broken nation. He links the act to expectation, desire, the urge to thwart disappointment, a defence mechanism to maintain the personal façade and the moment of clarity, of self-awareness, of vulnerability akin to standing on the precipice of ‘shedding that skin’; the armour of artifice.

This is truly a one man epic in little over an hour.

My quandary, how much to give away, while still wanting you to go see the performance for yourself.

The lighting is superb, able to capture Brian from all angles. So intimate is the performative space, that each shaft, spot and wash, leaves each character laid bare, at its most heightened essential. The music is multi- layered with a well-recognised melody hidden amongst a score that makes me feel as if I’m underwater. Well recognised voices barking propaganda give way to crowds in a bar and sounds of an old fashioned speakeasy.

Brian at once plays the anxious character with verbal dexterity, and then accurately dances this impression while also providing an outsider commentary on the situation. This is a very ambitious and complex approach. At first I thought, “Do we need all of this information? Does the doing of the thing and talking about it, stream of consciousness style, make one or the other redundant?

This is not a feel good piece where you are able to sit back and let the experience wash over you like the benign warmth of the sun’s gentle rays. No, but you may feel reassured in the knowledge that we share this common affliction. Brain has all bases covered so there’s at least one analogy in there for everyone.

Physicality ranged from the common gestural, moving fluidly to the highly styalised abstract. Lucas is a mesmerising mover, working all the angles, giving a kaleidoscopic performance. From the twitch of the ill begotten husband urging you to grab a swifty from the bar, to the long legged army officer covering ground reminiscent of the gestapo goosestep. At once a small squatting crouch sharing insight, quickly shifting to the expansive welcome, arms aloft to include us all, the violent upright of the one that was before he became the cowering stoop of the ill begotten.

His characters are at once diverse but at second glance more specifically the proletariat, the working class in its many manifestations, all flawed, generally unloved, overlooked and unlikeable. I can’t guess at Brian’s motives, because on witnessing their vulnerabilities through various foibles, I don’t begin to like them. Egotistically I do begin to recognise them.

Brian gives an insightful, quietly provocative performance. At times I feel as if I have had to work hard to fully appreciate it. Unlike a fast food metaphor where the experience is digested before I’ve left the premises, it continues to resonate.

Sadly the season has just finished here.


Photo Credit: Fiona Cullen