Review: Jonathan Burrows & Matteo Fargion in Cheap Lecture / The Cow Piece at Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler's Wells

Performance: 13 - 15 October 2010
Reviewed by Libby Costello - Monday 25 October 2010

'Cheap Lecture' Jonathan Burrows & Matteo Fargion, 
Lilian Baylis Theatre Sadler's Wells, 13 - 15 Oct 2010
Photo: Herman Sorgeloos

The best line of *Cheap Lecture, a tongue in cheek take on *John Cage’s Lecture on Nothing (1959), was the very honest declaration from the artists that “We’d love to make a Pina Bausch work, but this is what we’re good at.” And yes Cheap Lecture is a sort of poem of nonsensical words, which, very slowly, is not a Pina Bausch work. In fact the most movement on stage is probably in the performers vocal cords, but it is pure Burrows and Fargion and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Despite the lack of movement in Cheap Lecture, it is far from effortless. Rather than reciting the lines of their poem in sentences that reflect everyday speech, the sentences take on musical phrases, hiding their meaning with their unusual delivery – creating many laugh out loud moments. Despite a whole section of the poem debating whether the audience may grow bored with the piece, the style and delivery of Cheap Lecture is far from boring – it’s the funniest lecture I’ve seen in a long time.

*Cow Piece* left me totally bemused – and amused. Burrows and Fargion lost themselves, like children playing make believe, as they moved their herd of cows (six each), through mini stories and little ditties being performed by the Friesians. Fargion provided most of the music on various instruments or via exquisite Italian song, whilst Burrows acted out the little tragedies in ballet mime. Aside from this it was difficult to denote any other meaning behind Cow Piece. Just like Cheap Lecture it was hilariously funny, like watching madmen play a game of charades in which only the cows, music and ballet mime could be used as clues.

This hour long programme should not be missed – a rare gem in the world of postmodern performance.

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