What futures can we imagine when ideas of progress have drained away?
Rain is Liquid Sunshine asks how weather systems, deconstruction and other urban cycles might inspire collective urban imagination.
In the exploration, The Doing Group situated themselves in a demolition site, engaging with the material qualities of both weather and detritus material found there. Performative interventions sought to activate the ubiquitous relationships between bodies, material and site, troubling notions of continual urban progress.
In the context of the black box theatre, Rain Is Liquid Sunshine interrogates how bodies and materials might create cycles and networks. Throughout the hour-long performance, a landscape emerges as materials reveal their singularities. Crashing rubble transforms into a soft dust, gently raining onto a thrumming metal grid. Handheld spray bottles dampen a climate in which a car tyre floats and tumbles in the gusts of a fan in the corner.
Each of the objects on stage weave their way into the cycle of another, and the bodies of human performers become background to the vibrancy of what might often be passed off as left over. Through evocative images created by performing the materials potentialities, the performance negotiates how we might imagine our environment anew.
The performance by The Doing Group, Rain is Liquid Sunshine, was full of apt visual metaphors about sustainable building, with well-chosen text to match. The GU students’ name is a riposte to the passivity of a reading group, of course, so when you’ve done with my words, take the hint and give them your active support.
The Doing Group make strange, post-apocalyptic performance. Mad Max for kids. In Rain is Liquid Sunshine, a tyre is sent spinning into the sky, rain is produced through the interplay of an electric fan and a plastic water-spray bottle, and a fragmented text speaks of ruins. This is ecological performance, not because of what it says or discourses about, but because of what it does, its evocatory mode of signifying produced by bodies, words and objects. There is nothing miserablist about this work of recycled remainders and detritus. What we experience as spectators, rather, is a strange sense of wonder, perhaps even a kind of astonishment – a happiness of sorts that might allow us to begin again and again. In their exhaustible affirmation of ruins, the Doing Group are true to their own mission statement: the aim – the ambition – is to use performance as a vehicle for thinking and feeling; which, in this instance, investigates what it means to live now, in a fragile and precarious time of political and ecological crisis. Rain is Liquid Sunshine is the best thing I have seen in Glasgow this year – an original and timely performance that does something new.
Carl Lavery, Professor of Theatre and Performance at the University of Glasgow.
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Photos by Alex Lister, Alfonso Ramundo, and Aldo Ferrarello.