The Decorative Potential of Blazing Factories offers a unique experience to view expanded cinema, where an art exhibition is combined with moving images. There is genuine excitement to see this show, influenced by Bunraku puppet theatre. However, though the arrangement is somewhat interesting and it laughs at itself, overall it feels slightly too haphazard and indulged.
Walking in to an exhibition prior to the film is an intriguing and appreciated element of the show. It is valuable to see the art still, and interesting to consider how these cardboard – purposefully rough pieces – will be transformed on to screen.
Once in the theatre, on stage lay four large cardboard cut-outs on sticks. There are two circles and two rectangles and they’re blank. the lights dim and the two artists, Gary Chitty and Bruce Mclean, who have both built admirable art and film careers, approach the stage from alternative ends.
The story revolves around a young female artist who burns down her dad’s factory in the hope of creating the greatest landscape of the century. Out of this fire comes a group of people who will discuss at length the issues but take very little action. After this, there’s a breakdown of first impressions and the science behind the perfect handshake as major leaders of the world prepare to combat the issues caused by the fire.
The film successfully laughs at every element of modern society and via the empowering narrator effectively pokes fun at the establishment, contemporary art world and idiocy of bureaucracy. This is enjoyable, but after twenty minutes the joke feels tired and as the audience laugh, they seem to forget that we are also the butt of the jokes – but so are the artists. I did say it was a bit of fun.
The impressive use of filming, as the artists use plastic sticks to control their cardboard creations and remarkably articulate their narrative, should be applauded. However, similarly to the satirically jokes, the novelty soon wears off and nausea creeps in as the jumping jerkiness takes its toll.
Strangely, the artists focus much of their script on the construction jargon in the worst form of exposition possible. This is where true confusion on the purpose comes to fruition. Is the film’s message environmentalism? Stupidity of government? Or the painful ridiculousness in news reporting? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. This film becomes an innovative lecture rather than an enjoyable theatre experience.
On top of this, there are the placards held by the artists as they weave them across the projector, presumably to focus our attention, but in fact serving as an odd distraction. Blocking out pieces of text on the screen, it feels like Laurel and Hardy have found themselves in the wrong room rather than respected artists pushing the boundaries of theatre.Overall, the art, filming and construction are magnanimous, the dialogue humorous but the big selling point, the placards – well, they are just unnecessary. The Decorative Potential of Blazing Factories is a worthwhile experience, but not one I’d burn down a factory for.
The Decorative Potential of Blazing Factories is playing the Coronet Theatre until 22 June. For more information and tickets, see the Coronet Theatre website.