After a series of interventions during 2017 including a stint shining shoes on Beverley Road, Heads Up Festival welcomed the ex-KLF and K Foundation’s Bill Drummond back to Hull. Daffodils & Death is a double bill of off-kilter plays, which play about with the nature of art, the nature of ideas, layers of chronology and much more besides.
The first centres on decisions surrounding documentation, during the ongoing 25 Paintings World Tour with Tam Dean Burn playing the part of Bill Drummond. Bill is sat in the front row of Kardomah94 observing himself on stage. Charlie Sellers, playing inter-disciplinary artist Tracey Moberly – also present tonight – engages in a critical discussion over the death of photography as a valid way to record art. Tracey is Bill’s regular photographer so the outcome could prove pivotal to her.
The packed audience are invited to view a film by Paul Duane, which begins on a Birmingham canal running underneath spaghetti junction, with Bill manoeuvering a floating bed of daffodils and a large painted sign, that reads ‘Best Before Death’.
The film moves on to India, where Bill conducts a number of interventions: entering a city while banging a drum; shoe shining again – made more difficult by the fact the local’s footwear of choice is the flip flop – sweeping streets and baking cakes. These simple actions, don’t appear to have any rhyme or reason behind them, it is enough that they have taken place. This is all part of a grander scheme or work that will eventually take Bill and Tracey to China and the U.S.
Tonight is all being filmed and by posing with the daffodils for a photograph, the Hull Heads Up audience have become part of the World Tour. The part where Bill comes to Hull to present two plays which as we find out in the second act are far from completed.
Daffodils & Death is a performance about playwriting, not so much a play within a play rather a performance without a play.
After the break, it all gets very meta in ‘Totally Wired’ when Tenzing Scott Brown, Drummond’s alter ego also played by Tam Dean Burn, leaves his actor companion, played by Sarah Naughton, to take a phone call from Heads Up Festival’s Dave W, asking whether he, Drummond/ Tenzing, has the outline for the plays they are booked to do in Hull in March. Along the way reference is made to the characters in Waiting for Godot and a Mark E. Smith monologue is delivered by Charlie Sellers in animated fashion, now not playing Tracey.
At the heart of ‘Totally Wired’ are two monologues which Tenzing intends to share with congregations, in two particular churches in the U.S. The first tale concerns a brutal act of cruelty against helpless infant blackbirds, this immediately focuses the audience’s attention. Perhaps this is the stuff that actually matters. Burn reads the piece like a parable of old with the crowd hanging on his every word, incredulous and wide-eyed, but what lesson is being learnt here? The second has all the makings of a fisherman’s tall tale, musing on the possibility that Jesus might return in the form of a freshwater pike.
The audience leave definitely pleased with the performances and their daffodils, but the question, what exactly was that, is left hanging in the air.
Daffodils & Death were directed by Tracey Moberly and Tam Dean Burn.
Photographs by Anete Sooda