revew: Gary Clarke Company – Wasteland
Gary Clarke Company/
1-3 Feb 2023//
Give the wound a name:
Wasteland is a Fuck The Police show. A Fuck The Police show because the police were instrumental in shutting down illegal raves. A Fuck The Police show because it is about the event and the aftermath of pit closures in the north of England, and the police (who are bastards) were instrumental in brutalising striking miners. Wasteland is a Fuck The Police show because it is a show which mentions the police and I saw it.
Dance is a liberatory force in Wasteland; whether drunken aggression or pent-up angst, characters burn off their emotions through movement. The language of movement in Wasteland is external/internal – the world is material and impacts its residents. What happens outside and around the dancers forces them to react, and they strike out in an effort to exist in the world on their own terms. The police are anti-movement, therefore anti-expression. The show’s characters inhabit an environment (the British state) the fabric of which forces the direction of their lives. Their material conditions are those of extinguished livelihoods, ancestral culture brought to a sudden halt. The police are the matter of the state, part of the fabric of reality which characters move through. The police are oppressive and as a result the conditions of mere existence itself are oppressive.
Wasteland makes clear: when it comes to attacks on the working class, the mines were not the only thing, just as today the railways are not the only thing and our schools are not the only thing. Remember, if they didn’t want us dead they would act like it.
Alcoholic dad is a useful shortcut. We have all before seen the kitchen sink dad in his 80s living room: orange and brown wallpaper, olive green armchair. He probably drinks Special Brew. He is broken. Material conditions inspire traumatic responses. Substance abuse is neglect inflicted by the state. Give the wound a name.
Wasteland is careful to present its Dad as a consequence of a rug-pull. His job was taken from him and with it his life. He has nothing to do and he has nothing to offer his son and so the gulf between them grows. He is drunk, he lurches, he spits, he bellows, and he sings. His only connection to the past and his extinct culture is brass bands and hymnals and his knowledge of the other men in his position. He can offer his son nothing which is alive.
If Dad is the gap left by the dismantled mining industry then his Son is something new growing in that crack. Under great heat and stress, minerals transform. The son is in a dangerous place and to survive he turns away from his useless father and creates his own life in communion with other products of the annihilated past. When their lives are unsound, they translate that insecurity into a violation – a wounding – of private property, into a wounding of the peace, into a wounding of their role as obedient, sober citizens. The rave is a wound inflicted back by the wounded onto the state. And so it cannot stand.
When the rave is crushed and his comrades dispersed and his body weak, the son is forced to retreat to the fragile, still state-sanctioned, familial bond he shares with his father. Some small use in family: a bunker for those we’re allowed to be connected to.
When wounded, music is a balm. The Dad retreats into, and is comforted by, traditional songs, the brass music of the colliery band. The choir is proof of the past, like archival footage, like meeting a bloke who used to work as a miner and realising we carry the past with us everywhere we go, realising history is more about the present than anything else. His son doesn’t have recourse to the choir – his raves fill that function, but they do the same work of preserving a moment of displacement. The music is a memory of the thing which once existed.
Wasteland is such a piece of remembrance, too, in music, in movement, in dance. Wasteland commemorates the wounds inflicted on this country, and the reactions to those wounds. And in contextualising the two losses, of rave culture and the mining industry, together, Wasteland reminds us that all losses, gains, years of mourning, are on the same timeline. The things stolen from us today will have their music, too, and will have their own monuments in our memories.
5) Give the wound a name
The wound is a contradiction which harms. The wound cannot fit into the way we expect the world to function. The wound is the closure of the pit with nothing to replace it. The wound is your dad is incapable of speaking to you. The wound is you need to move and you need to lose your mind but you have nowhere to do it.
The wound, from the state’s perspective, is hundreds of people occupying a warehouse and generating no profit for anyone. The wound, to them, is funding criminal economies by taking illegal drugs. The wound is citizens out of control.
The process of history is the raising and healing of wounds. When a contradiction threatens your world, you can assimilate it or fight to quash it – are these two really any different? Either one willchange the world, one way or another.
To pin down a thing, to name it, is to interrupt its evolution. The point of evolution is that it is incremental, slipperier than discrete stages – names are only ever metaphors. The thylacine was the end product of millions of years of evolution and like anything living it was set to continue evolving for millions still. The name ‘thylacine’ was only a name for all of them, each individual member of that genus was as different as you and I; the name was an approximation like any name. The thylacine is now extinct. Extinction is the only case where evolution truly ends. If it survived long enough, that which we called the thylacine would have become something new. Forever, ‘thylacine’ will mean the point which the Tasmanian tiger got to. That particular name will never stop being accurate.
Once a culture is named and known it is not the living thing any more. The thing will continue living but the name will grow less accurate. Give the wound a name and you can treat it, recall it. At some point, your broken ankle becomes your ankle again, but it always was broken; its story always contains the break.
To declare ‘rave culture’ is to step toward acceptance, deradicalisation, assimilation. To name ‘rave’ is to aid its understanding – is a step towards phenomena such as the Hacienda nightclub in Manchester being demolished and replaced with the ‘Hacienda’ block of flats, whose ground floor is home to an estate agents decorated with the extinct venue’s hazard-tape branding. Rave is respectable enough to be an important part of ‘Manchester’s night time economy,’ respectable enough for a grammar school-educated businessman to run the city’s most famous club night.
Rave may be a largely healed wound but Wasteland seeks to emphasise its wound-ness, its origins from a site of pain, loss, injury. Whatever rave is now, in the period piece Wasteland, rave is a site of liberation. Wasteland wants to remind us: Fuck The Police; a wound is not the end; culture will find a gap and will fight for its existence, will invent itself and find its own means of liberation. Whatever rave is now, it once was dangerous, and liberation occurs in the dangerous place.