Off, on, off and back on again
25 March 2018
Stevie Thomas' poetic and open performance has a powerful impact despite an unexpected interval, says Daniella Harrison
1001010 audience members currently occupy PACE 2. From outside, the sound of digital music can be heard. It’s kind of hypnotic, kind of retro.
100101 by one, we file in. We choose the seats we think we’ll see the action best from, filling up the gaps as we go.
10010 – The house lights go down and we settle in. Patiently waiting.
Stevie Thomas is sat on a box – a black box – and they too are dressed in black. Binary code is projected behind them. It sometimes spills on to their face, almost tattooing the numbers on to their nose, their cheeks, their forehead. It creates this sort of immersion, a sort of branding, a sort of restriction.
“1001010,” they chant, facing straight out into the audience, a sea of faces, watching them forcefully speak the numbers that are typed behind them as they speak.
The dialogue is poetic and punching, almost as if the digits are being fired out of their mouth. The sentences flow, they lead on from 100101 to another.
It reminds me of a spoken word poem called “Happy” by Dottie James. In the poem, the last letter of the word “happy” creates the next question, the "Y". The same technique is employed by Thomas, as numbers and sentences merge together to create this beautiful dialogue, demonstrating the feeling of being frustrated, questioning and asserting oneself all at the same time.
Thomas steps off the block and becomes different personas, which I believe are verbatim. There’s the gruff one who sits with his legs spread, the person who is slut-shamed for her DD-sized breasts, and another who talks of powerful females: the Spice Girls and Cher spring to mind. The audience laughs; there’s a real friendliness to Thomas that invites you in and calms you.
The house lights go up. Another figure enters the stage. A grey jumper this time. There’s been a few technical issues. We’ll start again. Don’t worry, it won’t affect your timetable, you can still make your next show.
“Can the audience stay in their seats?”
“Yes they can stay.”
The performance is broken with this unexpected interval. We begin to chat about what we’ve just seen: what was the technical fault? Nothing felt missing or untoward. The performance was carried off well by Thomas alone.
I bet the tech WhatsApp chat is popping off.
There’s a sense of calm and community in the room. The team are doing fantastically to sort the problem as quickly as possible.
“OK, we’re ready to start again now.”
Stevie Thomas sits on a box – a black box – and they too are dressed in black. Binary code is projected behind them, but sometimes [always] spills on to their face, almost [definitely] tattooing the numbers on to their nose, their cheeks, their forehead. It creates this sort of immersion, a sort of branding, a sort of restriction.
“1001010,” they chant, facing straight out into the audience, a sea of faces watching them forcefully [voice seems more vindictive now, somehow even stronger] speak the numbers that are typed behind them as they speak.
The dialogue is poetic and punching, almost as if the digits are being fired out of their mouth. The sentences flow, they lead on from
[The second performance leads on smoothly from the first. It is almost identical.]
[Silhouettes appear on the screen] [This is new] [They begin to try and fit themselves into them, mimicking their poses: the flexed muscle, the bent knee, the hand on hip] [Trying to fit in]
Thomas steps off of the block and begins speak as different personas [the silhouettes], which I believe are verbatim.
… Another where they begin to talk of powerful 90s females: the Spice Girls and Cher spring to mind. The audience laughs [it’s knowing, we know what’s coming] – there’s a real friendliness that Thomas has, that invites you in and makes you feel calm. [They let us stay in the room while a stressful technical issue was happening].
Thomas begins to open up to us about their own feelings about the gender binary and identification, and it is these moments that really shine through among the more poetic monologues. The explanation of gender binary is given simply, and I feel this piece would work so well if it toured schools or other institutions where the idea of being non-binary is not as well-known. You don’t have to be a 1, or a 0. You could be a 2, Thomas tells us.
10010102 times this was performed, unexpectedly. It’s a strange thing to suddenly be pulled out of the show’s flow and realise something isn’t quite right, despite the fact it felt fine. It’s a real credit to just keep going, and to begin again.
And so the chanting starts again
“1001010, 1001010, 1001010…”
Photo credit: Giulia Delprato