revew: Jamie Wood – O No!
by Jamie Wood/
co-dir Wendy Hubbard/
prod Luke Emery
PAINTING FOR THE WIND
Cut a hole in a bag filled with seeds
of any kind and place the bag where
there is wind.
Would the wind plant the seeds, would you or would the soil they hit (if they hit soil)? Would you author their existence, would Yoko Ono, would the wind, would God?
If a performance piece needs an audience, does Jamie Wood author the show or is it a collective work? If a performance piece is constructed out of the lives and work of Yoko Ono and John Lennon, did they author it by living?
It feels almost crass, some forcing of a blunt instrument, to write here about Jamie Wood’s O No! and I do not know whether I write about the content of the show, my experience of it, or the man himself. It was (they were) a delicate thing and we were witness to it, coerced into becoming part of it, but (for my part) gladly.
Wood introduces us to Ono’s instruction pieces, acts them out, invites audience members to join him whilst exuding an energy that seems out of time, a sincere sort of total generosity that is a throwback to the sixties when change, for all I know, felt real.
Reminders of the murder of Lennon burst sporadically into the performance, as Wood is shot, shot, shot and falls to the floor. This is interspersed with recordings of interactions with Wood’s partner and son, of his parents talking about love, which is some of the loveliest stuff I have heard in a while. It feels important to this show that it lets us know where it comes from, from places of love.
The show is disparate, the focal point, the lynch-pin, is Wood; his enigmatic and kindly control of the room and encouragement of his participants is powerfully female. It is difficult to imagine this show making any sense with a different performer – the threads of association are broad but all spun with Wood and his performance at the centre.
At what point in a work do makers become visible and at what point do they disappear? Perhaps when they hide in a bag.
iirc, there were two audience members who walked out of O No! But not until they couldn’t be seen. With a volunteer from the audience, Wood performs Bag Piece; the two enter a bag together, remove all their clothes, then put them back on. We cannot see them and they cannot see us. Maybe it is the idea of what is happening that compelled the audience members to leave. Maybe they had been disengaged for a while and being hidden from the performer gave them the opportunity and courage. I do, though, believe that a performance the audience are free to leave is a caring thing.
I’m blinded to a lot of the bizzarety of how performance works. What a strange thing I watched on Wednesday. And how curious it is that I could allow it to happen without any sense of surprise.
As Wood sits in the bag with his volunteer, he asks them about love. Their responses will be different every time. But this time they were beautiful. It is not easy to ask for the public openness that was given to Wood, and to us. It strikes me that at the start of O No! my dominant affect was that this is all very silly. It was quaint, sweet, but foolish and naive to ask for the sixties to return, in this small room in Manchester. But this was a persistent piece, persistent like the love of a mother or a course of antibiotics; without immediate effect but cumulatively wholly transformative. Hope built and built, by the end of the show, Wood casts an orchestra in the audience, on the stage, in a cacophonous rendition of Imagine. Then they all die.
Use your blood to paint.
Keep painting until you faint. (a)
Keep painting until you die. (b)