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Reasons for Living: Ann Liv Young


Written by Rob Michaels
01 Monday 01st June 2009

With no less than eleven performances lined up across a number of diverse locations, the opening night of the BURST Festival's theatre extravaganza promised to be an eclectic affair. Some had the opportunity to have their nails painted in a one-on-one with David 'Duckie' Hoyle, others were invited to take a trip around the local ASDA while following pre-recorded instructions from an ipod. Surely theatre doesn't get much more avant-garde than this? And yet, in what was perhaps one of the most flabbergasting performances I have ever seen, Ann Liv Young demonstrated that audiences need not leave their seats to embark upon a journey of truly epic proportions.

Liv Young in New York

Having kicked up quite a fuss back in her native New York City with her controversial interpretation of Snow White, Ann Liv Young continues to baffle and offend in equal measure. No sooner had the audience settled in their seats than the music began with an ear-splitting rendition of Bill Withers' Aint No Sunshine. Ann and her partner Isabelle yell the lyrics above the music and accompany the piece with their own raucous instrumentals. Out of the comfort zone we go.

Excerpt from Liv Young's 'Snow White'

What followed was a performance so powerful and unrelenting that I was left sweating like an ice cube in a sauna. Much of the material went beyond shocking - so outrageous that by the end people writhing naked in milk seemed pefectly natural.

It was Antonin Artaud, in his manifesto on The Theatre of Cruelty, who called for the theatre to confront its audience with the very things that they are too afraid to look for. To find the truth, the real essence of the human condition, we must shatter the false realities, the safe barriers that civilised society has built for us. From the moment Ann and Isabelle stripped to expose their bare-naked selves, the barriers began tumbling down.

Through an incredibly physical, in-your-face performance, Ann and Isabelle take extreme measures - such as masturbating with carrots and urinating on stage - to unsettle their audience. "Have you ever been raped?" asks Ann of her audience. And only in the face of a performance so grotesque might a member of a traditionally passive British audience stand up and say "Yes I have actually now you mention it."

This was not the cheering, heckling, self-involving American audiences that Miss Liv Young might have grown accustomed to. "I've made audiences a lot angrier than that. In some shows they hated me." Love her or hate her, apathy won't come into it.

For more on the Burst festival, click here

If you've been intruiged by Ann Liv Young, sate your curiousity here


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