The programme says that “Alba is a performance about paleness, blending in and standing out, influenced by the artist’s experience as a person with albinism”. If that is the case, then I believe I completely missed the point of this performance. It goes on to say, “creating a visual poem of imagery, story, light and sound Alba explores the stories we tell of ourselves and the stories told about us… the identities we cannot shake off and so instead perform”. It is very difficult to understand this context considering the short performance that performer Jo Bannon presents.
The beginning of the show leaves the audience in complete darkness with eerie music for an uncomfortable length of time. Bannon appears, covered by a sheet and takes an unnecessarily long time to create her simple set of a white carpet, desk, kettle and iron. The rest of the performance is just her performing mundane day-to-day tasks, such as boiling the kettle, washing her hair and making a sandwich, mostly while the peculiar music continues. Even turning to the programme doesn’t provide much of an explanation as to how this all fits into her theme. Bannon writes, “even if only for the time it takes to boil a kettle and watch the steam arrive, a mist slighter and more miraculous than the sum of its parts. Here and then gone, always worth watching, never long enough, and then back to water, back to promise, back to becoming.” It suggests that the show intends to be cryptic.
Bannon’s mother provides the occasional voiceover with insight to the performer’s childhood. These moments are obviously the easiest to follow and it is easier to create a vivid picture in your own mind to accompany the mother’s entertaining motherly tales than it is to understand the performance before your eyes.
It is only a 40 minute production and the time flies by quite quickly while you’re trying to understand and keep up with the performer’s intentions. It seems unfair to draw a verdict on a performance I potentially didn’t understand. Perhaps if there was a less cryptic explanation to the show, it would have been easier to follow and connect the mundane tasks to the point the performer is trying to make. Bannon is taking this show to Edinburgh this summer so perhaps it will find its audience there.
Alba played at Ovalhouse until 25 July. For tickets and more information, see the Ovalhouse website.