Lone Twin (UK)
The ANTI 2011 programme included a number of events that either targeted or implicated children, and as suggested above, all events apart from Blast Theory’s Rider Spoke were evaluated by the school kids who made up the jury of the Children’s Choice Awards. One work made specifically for younger audiences is Lone Twin’s Beastie, an encounter with an anomalous other: part Big Foot, part affable biped horse-muppet (the animatronic costume was designed by Darryl Worbey Studios in London), part imaginary friend concretised and unleashed into the urban everyday. Drawing on Gary Winters and Gregg Whelan’s experiences as writers for children’s television, Beastie has the characteristic immediacy and playfulness of much of Lone Twin’s work, its apparently joyous simplicity unfolding gently into greater complexities – related to imagination, desire, belief, identity, friendship and temporary communities constellating around stories.
The opening sequence of Beastie, rarely witnessed by adults, occurs here in a closed room in the Kultuuriareena youth centre. At each performance a small invited group of children become active participants in the naming of this particular manifestation of the creature. They propose certain attributes and narrative details, and help assemble the costumed figure from inert body parts laid out in dismembered form on a grid outline on the floor. In one performance in Kuopio, for example, it is decided that ‘Otsu’ has been hatched from an egg on Jupiter, and is still a youngster at 700 years old. Mistaking the egg for a football, another creature had kicked it through space to land on earth near the youth centre. Once the performer is ensconced within the full costume, an exquisitely effective and mysterious transformation occurs at the moment when the seated figure’s head is lifted and its aquamarine eyes blink open for the first time to countenance those who are there. Although the process of construction has been witnessed from the outset, and the creature’s artifice is wholly apparent – everyone knows it’s a performer inside a costume - at this moment of initial animation the impulse/desire to ‘believe’ the illusion seems to be compelling for the adults almost as much as it is for the children. From this point the creature is seen in a complex way that is reminiscent of a ‘both-and’ mode of spectatorship in forms such as Bunraku: a pulse between immersion in a wide-eyed illusionist credibility and a knowing distance that fully acknowledges manipulation and artifice.
Beastie leads the children out into the streets of Kuopio in search of a similar creature, a ‘friend’ on the loose and concealed somewhere within the city, and they accompany him through comic chance encounters with passers-by and moments of predictably unpredictable animal behaviour (e.g. pissing out of an elbow). Finally, the friend is located and the two waving creatures disappear into the distance, arm-in-arm. For the children, perhaps this simple open-ended narrative trajectory seeds the possibility of future encounters, other creatures, other forms of befriendable life happily at large in their city. In the course of the festival they have already had a fleeting encounter with another anomalously shaggy ‘outsider’, Aaron Williamson’s ‘marooned wildman’, a pathetic, abandoned figure glimpsed and heard in the undergrowth of Vasikkaasaari Island, a short boat trip from the shoreline out into Lake Kallavesi. The city teems with others, it seems, in need of our help.