Review: Rated X

The latest offering from Form at Bootleg Social, Blackpool, is both escapism and imprisonment

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Have you ever woken from a dream and excitedly ranted to the first person you encounter upon waking? Have you ever taken pleasure in describing each ludicrous detail from your sleeping adventure, only to be stared down by the blank, uninterested expression on the face of your victim? This is exactly what happened to me the morning after seeing Tomas Jefanovas and Christopher Brett Bailey’s whirlpool performance of their collaborative effort Rated X. I will try and make a better fist of it here.

Rated X is the latest offering from theatre and performance project Form, which for the past five months has been bringing unique and extraordinary works to growing audiences in Blackpool. Promotional material described the show as “A meditation on holes, voids and mirrors. A ritual of high intensity. A sensory overload. A ketamine noir” but the venue had been transformed into a haven of relaxation, with front row sofa seats, mesmerising imagery and liquid sounds. Perfect Sunday viewing.

As those soft sounds slowly faded we caught our first glimpse of Christopher Brett Bailey, clad in formal attire, half his face covered in reptilian scales, one eye piercing into the audience with its sharp red contact lens. Immediately I became aware that the comfy sofa was going on a bumpy ride. A more mildly dressed Tomas Jefanovas also emerged from the darkness and proceeded to sculpt enchanting visuals on to multiple screens.

Like some nightmarish Doctor Who, Bailey pulled the audience deeper and deeper into this experience, giving a starling performance on the saxophone, retching upon his notes. Visuals became playful, disturbing and downright distressing at points, echoing the saxophone, littering the audience with colour and movement.

When Bailey began to speak, his prose provided a glowing element in the surreal vortex of the stage. Humorous yet dark, his witticisms started to anchor the performance and I found myself briefly thinking “I know exactly what he means” before the monologue returned to ramblings. I slipped back into the room and the jarring reverberations from the speakers.

There are amusing and clever notions in Rated X that pierce the veil of sound but there are also moments when your body cries out to return to normality. At times the feedback vibrated inside my vocal chords and made it feel as if I were creating noise myself. For the latter part of the performance the intimate audience became a small pool of expressionless faces. As the audio and visuals reached their peak, there was never a thought about what was outside the four walls that contained us.

Jefanovas and Bailey have successfully created a piece of work that is both escapism and imprisonment, takes plenty of risks and isn’t afraid to leave its audience feeling uncomfortable. With Form bringing further work to Blackpool next month it’s difficult to imagine what will follow this unique experience.

Photo: Christa Holka

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