Life is a funny thing. This is perhaps the most prominent message conveyed throughout Wendy Houstoun’s 50 Acts – the changing world around us, our perceptions, our lives, and our dance. Originally made for an airy gallery space in Nottingham, the transfer of 50 Acts to The Place, she says, ultimately changed the context of the entire piece. The intense darkness of the Robin Howard theatre highlights all of Houstoun’s messages combined as a rather evocative concept. This straightforward and honest solo takes a serious look at learning not to take things too seriously. Houstoun pulls this off as she does time and time again, providing the audience with a perspective they were never aware existed, or perhaps did not want to be aware of at all.
50 Acts objectifies our silent thoughts, those things we don’t wish to voice: Houstoun highlights the trivialities of today’s society that have suddenly become all-encompassing. Through physical theatre, intermittent kicks and turns and the smashing of vinyl records, Houstoun’s behaviour pokes fun directly at the social and political constructs we are ruled by today. Voiceovers of David Cameron’s speeches certainly emphasise this when paired with Houstoun’s act of sitting, looking and valuing. Her apparent honesty is still framed however, as she maintained during the post-show talk, giving way to the trickery of theatricality and the act of performance. This act of tampering with such profound and honest statements does not devalue them, but seemingly demonstrates that we have far to go before we are freed from our constraining lives and contexts. Houstoun advocates, like so many others, that life is too short to be defined by something that cannot embody you. Her work is completely engaging and above all, humorous. Despite the fact she does not make her work with the intention of being so, it is undoubtedly beneficial to be able to identify with flaws and how they are hindering us in order to reverse this.
Houstoun says “Yes, yes, yes” to all those things that society has deemed she shouldn’t – doing the “moves of half her age”, revolution and change through light and sound effects and a video footage backdrop. She asks “why not”, when adding warning triangles and hard hats to her display, keeping her life ‘in line’, safe where society can see it. Houston’s work, in hindsight, liberates our lives from the pressure of new laws and funding cuts. Our own stances are all we have. Houstoun is a true performer, unafraid to grasp the microphone and connect with her audience, remaining true to her own message of radicalism and commitment to her own actions. Self-belief commits Houstoun to constructing this dance composition about those things that make her angry. Within such a direct and topical circumstance, her charisma in underlining all that is wrong with the world is ironically refreshing. Perhaps because as a society we no longer see the problems; we are too far gone.
Life is a funny thing.