Gossip magazines are ridiculous. Seriously. Every time I go to the doctor’s or to Gwynneville take-a-way (for life), I am confused as to why I’ve begun to read about some d-list celebrity’s trip to the key chain store. I mean why can’t they just get their key-chains from friends as awkward “I didn’t know what to get you so I got you a key-chain” gifts like the rest of the world? Then we wouldn’t have to read about it. Instead we’d probably be reading about a c-list celebrity’s haircut disaster…
It is this sort of reportage of minutiae that is the basis of Laura Caesar and Malcolm Whittaker’s Starfuckers, a durational performance which was performed at Merrigong theatre in the Bob Peet Studio as part of the Independent Producer’s Programme. The set-up is very simple: Malcolm and Laura browse through gossip magazines and read from them, but instead of articles about celebrities, they read stories about their relationship, which has lasted eight years. Once they have finished reading the story, they rip out that particular page of the magazine and shred it in a document shredder. The shreds are then used to create paper-mâché models of famous couples from history, which are placed on a long table in the centre of the room. This process continues until the couple runs out of stories.
The result is mesmerising. I entered the space at 7pm, with the show finishing at about 9:50pm on this particular evening. The marketing makes clear that audience are willing to come and go as they please and stay for as long as they desire, but the desire to leave never took hold. The stories were honest and engaging and left me wanting to know more. Malcolm and Laura’s point about the needless voyeurism of these magazines was well made, for as the show continued, I became more and more desirous for anecdotes from their past. With both parties sharing their own side of the same story, there also developed a need to get the complete picture of any situation. If I were to leave, I’d never find out what Laura thought about the story Malcolm just told. If I stayed, there was a possibility I would hear her opinion. Also, as the piece went on and heard more and more stories from their relationship, I found myself reflecting on my own relationships and the similarities and differences I found.
The most interesting stories were those from the more distant past. Stories from recent times gave interesting insights, but there was something about hearing what these two people were like in their formative years that added another dimension to the experience. It is hard to reconcile your knowledge of someone as a performance artist with their stories of being a scout when they were younger. It was also the honesty of the stories that gave them their power, with everything from random fantasies about other partners, to masturbatory desires, to day-by-day frustrations one has with their partner being discussed. I think this played perfectly into the weird voyeurism of magazine culture that they were exploring.
This was my first durational performance. I’ve often read about durational works and thought “that sounds like a great idea, I wonder if it would actually be interesting to watch for four hours?” This one was, and I sincerely hope it will be restaged at some point so you can all get along to it.