Writing Realness: Michael Freeman

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Jeremy Wade knows how to capture his audience’s attention. In Death Asshole Rave Video, it’s a visual and aural assault on the viewer’s senses; the stage is saturated with light and noise. In this chaos, he delivers a bizarre stand-up routine along with dance and video. The rapid–fire text is sometimes too much to take in but he gets his overall point across. This piece is highly theatrical and I wonder at the sheer force of his will.

As soon as we enter the theater he is lying on the floor in passive repose; I try not to step on him. The effect is confrontational as he speaks into a microphone as if to say “you don’t have to like me, but you must listen to what I have to say.” His punk attitude has just the right frequency of tension.

The first part of his presentation is a jacked-up rave-punk spectacle. Lights flash wildly as Wade acts as a DJ “giving it all away.” He’s also a salesman determined to crack open our complacency. This is a commercial for death that certainly might drive us away but no matter how hard he pushes, we stay, because this is a sophisticated freak show and I want more information.

Wade’s performance style reminds me of Jacques Lecoq’s buffoon characters, developed in his experimental theater school in Paris, France in the late 1970s. Buffoons are outcasts and survivors and speak about the reality of life, things that are taboo and outside the norm of our society.

“We mock clowns,” Lecoq says, “but buffoons mock us. The buffoon comes at the moment when gods disappear and the devil takes over. The buffoon comes from outer space; he’s an angel who has been thrown out of Heaven. He amuses himself with human stupidity. He mocks the Bible, the Crucifixion. He does not have a human shape. He is mysterious.”

The show has two layers: a text-heavy performance and a surreal atmosphere. The set was simple, yet powerful, and seemed to suggest a different reality. The walls being tied up in white fabric gave the space its own strong reflective presence. I could focus on this when I felt overwhelmed by the performance as it gave me an expansive, relaxed focal point.

Wade has questions: “Why are we so afraid of our assholes?” “Why do British people say bottom?” He must make trouser chili with Martha Stewart before she dies and he also has a few dead baby jokes to share with us. Tension is rising in the audience. What’s the point of it all? Wade addresses the perils and nervous anxieties of being an artist and an outcast. It’s a performance. It’s an accumulation of a feeling more than an accumulation of thought.


(a note from CLR: these Writing Realness pieces came out of TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN, a Movement Research writing workshop I taught in conjunction with American Realness 2015)

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