Unhinged, uncomfortable, unbridled are all fitting descriptions of Pamela and Sharlene’s Tack-On Tours Presents the Ugliest Buildings in London, but to simply leave it at that would negate the genius behind this immersive performance piece that follows the architectural landscape in the heart of London. Pamela and Sharlene have one simple mission: to highlight the ugly and overlooked.
Tack-On Tours is a collaborative production between international performing artists Ayesha Tansey (Pamela) and Flavia Betram (Sharlene). It is presented in conjunction with the London Festival of Architecture and Theatre Delicatessen. The London Festival of Architecture is in its tenth-year and runs throughout June with events across many platforms – from academic talks to film screenings and theatrical performances.
Pamela and Sharlene’s tour focuses on an approximately two-mile radius of central London and the ugly and forgotten buildings it contains. Some buildings are architectural feats, but generally regarded as garish and other buildings are largely forgotten remnants of World War II. No matter what era they stem from there are pithy facts and comedic critiques to be had from both tour guides.
Sharlene is the self-assured Canadian to Pamela’s lovable, but awkward Australian. They are each other’s foils—given such humour and honesty by Betram and Tansey. Pamela is oft rendered the fool by Sharlene’s brash and undercutting character. Throughout the whole tour there is a visceral tension between both women as the audience waits to see how much abuse Pamela will take.
The audience’s willingness to engage with the tour guides is just as much part of the show and creates the atmosphere for their dialogue to be jocular. Full trust is placed in these two women and the audience does not hesitate to follow suit with the leaders. Passers-by become voyeuristic and judgmental locals who look down on the audience (who are made to wear high-visible safety vests and smog masks). Pamela and Sharlene use the onlookers as physical architecture—a part of the landscape like Centre Point and the Shard—playing jokes on outsiders and even inviting them to listen in on the tour.
The performance reaches a perilous and embarrassing climax in the middle of Covent Garden that solidifies the audience as part of the piece. It is an ingenious moment that is also piercing—and will stay unspoiled for the reader.
Tack-On Tours is an intelligent parody of the London walking tour and the remarks Betram and Tansey make on London’s aesthetic and capitalist nature is poignant. This enjoyable piece of performance art is a must-see for anyone who wants to play tourist for a day.
Pamela and Sharlene’s Tack-On Tours Presents The Ugliest Buildings in London is playing select weekends throughout Summer 2014. For more information and tickets, see the Tack-On Tours website.