Do What Thou Wilt at the Barbican

Written for Total Theatre

Crowded, confusing and dark apart from a smoky haze of green lights, walking into Harminder Judge’s performance cum installation is like walking into a game of laser quest crossed with a satanic disco. The focal point is a giant pool of murky water – thick black mud in what can only be described as a ‘gunk dunk’. It is this pool, and the aerially suspended Judge, that we watch for the sixty minute duration of the show. Bursts of smoke fan out into clouds that play catch with the green neon strips and, as Judge painfully descends, his toes separate the light beams before he makes a torturously slow journey into the pit.

Accompanied by an obscure soundtrack of white noise and speech made incomprehensible by the sporadic hissing of smoke, Judge’s act is largely devoid of context. Seemingly a representation of the devil moving between heaven and hell, we get absolutely no sense of who or what this creature is. Neither bestial nor humane, it’s difficult to have either an intellectual or emotional response to this presumptuous piece of art.

There’s an expectation in the air that Judge’s eventual engulfment in the mud will be more spectacular than it eventually is. When he finally hits the mud, it is so underwhelming because we have already pre-empted it by about five minutes.

As a five pointed star of red lasers appears and Judge begins to ascend, it’s greeted with an inaudible groan: we now watch what we have just endured, once again, in reverse. There is the occasional interesting connotation conjured by the way Judge holds himself – Grendel, Neptune, Christ. But these occur more by chance and through a wish that there might be an image for us to hold onto. Neither cerebral nor visceral, I left the auditorium not so much puzzled by what I had watched, but why anyone felt the conviction to make it.

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