usurper review from we need no swords

Usurper review from We Need No Swords

“Despite having been in operation since the turn of the 21st century (well, 2003 to be exact) I came to the sound-performance-prankster duo of Ali Robertson and Malcy Duff only relatively recently, first in a solo installation/performance from Ali Robertson in Gateshead and then in a sublime happening delivered by the duo at last year’s TUSK festival. Describing these performances would be pointless. One can only say that the combination of language game, absurdist theatre and deadpan silliness hit a perfect note of defamiliarisation, opening a doorway into a pocket universe that is a cross between Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland and Franz Kafka’s Castle. Usurper-world is opaque, surreal, funny and uncomfortable and most of the time I have no idea what’s going on.

All of which is applicable to The Big Five, which consists of a series of monologues, or texts, or poems, accompanied by junk rustlings, traffic grumble and other background kerfuffle. A kind of jaundiced exotica seems to be a running theme for the first part, the monologues of nineteenth-century explorers stranded in a faraway jungle, charting their gradual descent into madness and incoherence. “Snakes…. Snakes…. Mosquito…mosquito… giraffe…. mmmthe jungle…”  runs an early passage, like some malarial pastiche of Colonel Kurtz holed up in a rainforest shack with only worn-out copies of gap-year guidebooks for company. Elsewhere, a variety of cheesy accents recite grisly anecdotes with even grosser similes (“My legs got crushed so badly they’d fit through a letterbox easier than a postcard from your holiday with relatives” and so on), rubbing up against onomatopoeic grumbles (“rat-a-tat…”), porcine gruntings and the plasticky judder of a ruler pinged on a tabletop.
A sackful of guaranteed WTF moments for all the family.”

popsmargree, we need no swords, april 2017