dfp_header_hidden_string

Get our free email newsletter with just one click

This Is How We Die review at Battersea Arts Centre, London – ‘hypnotic’

Christopher Brett Bailey, This is How We Die, Battersea Arts Centre. Photo: Claire Haigh Christopher Brett Bailey in This is How We Die at Battersea Arts Centre in 2015. Photo: Claire Haigh

It is a bit like being hypnotised. Christopher Brett Bailey sits at a table. One man, one microphone. That’s it. He reads from the pages in front of him, engulfing the audience in a wave of words. The text from which he reads is poetic and pulsing, neck-deep in Americana: gas stations, beehive hairdos, Kerouac, Hunter S Thompson and Burroughs, the call of the road. The text is sticky with it, literal but also nimble. Words become elasticated, pliable playthings.

At times Bailey’s performance style is like a juggernaut, a plosive onslaught. He wraps his mouth around the microphone, lips curling around consonants, sibilants stretching out like taffy.

This Is How We Die – which had an early airing at last year’s Forest Fringe and has been touring since – is both a genuflection and an abasement. Language is worshipped and pissed upon. But meaning is not entirely resisted. The text is too rich a thing for that. Words matter, however much Bailey unpicks and unpacks them.

There are some inerasable images here, the fascist father with the body bent into the shape of a swastika chief among them. And yet words are only half the story. The tongue is a weapon, Bailey intones repeatedly, before abandoning language entirely. The last 15 minutes blaze, the lights blindingly bright, noise reverberating up through our sternums. It’s a physical experience, like he’s loosed the T-rex from Jurassic Park into the room.

As a whole the production is possibly too self-aware at times, too arch, but Bailey, with his exclamation mark hair, is a never less than mesmeric presence.

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
Verdict
Christopher Brett Bailey takes a scythe to language in his hypnotic, poetic solo show
^