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Suicide Notes review at Shoreditch Town Hall, London – ‘intimate, intense, electrifying’

Christopher Brett Bailey in Suicide Notes at Shoreditch Town Hall, London. Photo: Jemima Yong

Sex, death, and grubbily nostalgic Americana slosh together in all of Christopher Brett Bailey’s work. Suicide Notes, touring in support of a new book from which the show takes its text and title, is no exception, returning to the themes of his solo debut This is How We Die with a scrambled sequence of anecdotes, poems, and occasional wordless squeals.

The setup, too, is familiar. Relying on nothing more than a microphone and a table laden with sheaves of paper, the arrangement recalls the eviscerating intimacy of Forced Entertainment’s Speak Bitterness, or Daniel Kitson’s formal experiments with poignant sit-down stand-up. Bailey, though, chooses to continually undercut his own, occasionally arch, narratives with some deliciously misanthropic humour.

Starting off with a burst of knowingly creaky one liners, the show quickly develops into a series of absorbing short stories tinged with magical realism and dripping with filthy patter. Bailey argues the social construction of gender with the Biblical Adam, encourages cannibalism, and persuasively plays out the last days of a human race nosediving towards their own planned extinction.

While it might lack the blistering soundscape or the complete demolition of language which characterised his earlier shows, Bailey still generates a tremendous, visceral energy at times, leaning in to his microphone so every overexpressed plosive can throb like a heartbeat. If it sometimes spirals into meaningless repetition, there are moments of near-perfect articulacy, too, charting the quivering, fleshy lines between erotica and gore, poetry and trash, despair and absolute debauchery.

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

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Intimate and intense spoken word show is bleak, bewildering, but often electrifying