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5 September 2011

Natalie Parsley walks into a bar....not before going to an art exhibition

Helena Haimes -"It's the way I tell 'em"

Saturday 3rd September until Saturday 1st October

at The Brewhouse Theatre, Taunton Somerset

"Helena Haimes' exhibition brings together ideas around the British sense of humour and its connection to artistic movements. It examines and meditates upon the history of The Brewhouse as a place of laughter, comedy and comedic performance, as well as looking at how their aftermaths are formed, and how they inhabit the audience's memories."

That's what I read of the Brewhouse website prior to coming to visit this exhibition last Friday evening, and the image above is of me, recycling the Brewhouse invite into a 'snazzy' pair of cut-out glasses, after all 'Its the way I tell 'em' is surely meant to be all about humour isn't it? I thought so and upon seeing the work I can confirm it definitely has elements of humour in it, but its also (like a lot of comedy to some extent) got more going on in it than just a bunch of one liners. It's actually quite thoughtful and almost nostalgic in the way it is made up of three maquettes of the Brewhouse, past, present and future on which tiny projections of people run, act and walk across their surfaces. It is definitely fun to see and watch as each of the different projected characters stand and ponder or do different things in miniature form on the models of the Brewhouse, they're like borrowers or ghosts from time gone past, but either way it is very refreshing to see projectors used for such small details and in a playful way as to the large/square outdoor film projections that are becoming all too familiar. I have to add, though, that it did take me a while to work out that the maquettes were actually of the Brewhouse, and once I made that connection the characters projected on them seemed to make more sense and fit in with the context of a theatre being a site for acting/characters/projection etc.

In the image above, and projected on the 'present' Brewhouse is Helena (who incidentally plays all the parts in the piece -perhaps another way of alluding to ideas around performance/theatre) peeling and re-peeling a banana. I'm all for banana skins and comedy, but maybe this part of the installation was a bit lost on me and I actually preferred the novelty and surprise of waiting for the tiny projected people to come walking on screen.

The above image, showing 'the future' of the Brewhouse is slightly disturbing, maybe in the way that rocks and what looks to be tumble weeds could be read as meaning that the theatre is deserted and abandoned (let's hope not!). However in a topical kind of way, with the lack in arts funding perhaps this 'future' of the Brewhouse is a dig at what could happen if it isn't supported by the community. Still, like most comedy it doesn't take itself too seriously and can poke fun at current affairs if in its poking it also draws to light a potential problem.

Anyway, whilst this exhibition wasn't exactly the bundle of laughs that I had maybe anticipated it to be, there was still a lot of wit and fun to be had in the surprise and novel use of projectors. I think that I would have liked to see the characters in the projections maybe do more than just walk, or stand and look around, but still loved watching and waiting for them to arrive. It certainly held my attention.

For now its time to make like a chicken and cross the road. I'll see you on the other side!

Venue 94 in the SAW catalogue or for more details visit:
Visit on Wednesday 21st September, 6pm for an 'artists talk' as Helena will be discussing the work and about her residency at The Brewhouse.

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