Byre Theatre [Studio Theatre], St Andrews
5th March 2016
In t-shirt, jeans, and gold-coloured, turquoise-laced daps, the little pilgrim Jemima Foxtrot enters in a series of wallaby-hops, sampling hip-hop and songs from the first Bob Dylan album, making them vie for earworm status.
… I am my own boat, mast, and sails…
‘Melody’ is a continuous performance lasting about fifty minutes. It combines spoken words, singing, dancing, movement, musical interruptions from the sound system, words written on rolled-up paper or body parts… Part way through I realise that it is a walk, from point (a) to point (b), or maybe from point (a) to point (a) via point (b), and I am being taken along, listening to a life-story as I go. Her previous life as a cowboy? That’s in there. Little pilgrim dreams of the free life of a traveller, a drop-out, but also of wealth and opulence – ‘I want both’. She pauses on a park bench bearing the name ‘Albert Greaves’, as though someone has given the bench itself a moniker. In her gaze, children transform themselves, having seen pre-teenagers posing as teenagers while sunbathing on the beach. In her experience ‘love is like hot-wiring a sports car’, but come-ons from men are deliciously phoney
… I smell bullshit, but spread it all over me like liniment…
and sex can be boring. The comedic, the playful, the laughable gives way though, as a suddenly-static Jemima delivers the patient’s half of a medical conversation. The doctor’s half exists in our imagination. Little pilgrim’s bounce is replaced by a tremor, as she describes being sick onto a picture of Gwyneth Paltrow, the cover of a magazine in a hospital waiting room. I’m unsure what we’re looking at in this episode – pregnancy? stillbirth? termination? – I’m unsure whether we’re supposed to be sure, but it’s a poignant passage in the little pilgrimage.
In a way, the walk has been from childhood to adulthood, but the adult who finishes the walk is one who chases pigeons to prove that she can change things, and adult for whom childish things still signify, still matter. Jemima is also a master of the clearest enunciation. A conversation I had at this year’s StAnza had to do with the reception and interpretation of spoken performance using lip-reading. Jemima’s lips are a treat to read!
One slight tarnish was the cueing of the music/sound. I don’t know how deliberately the recorded material came and went, but on a few occasions it drowned out Jemima’s voice, and on others it seemed either to jump in or lag. Some care needed on the sliders! But all-in-all this was a damn good way to spend a lunchtime. If you missed it, she has shows coming up in Bristol, Clapham, Newcastle, and Leicester. Be a co-pilgrim!
Reviewer : Paul Thompson