The first rule about a Dada performance is that you don’t start one with the history of Dada. Even if you are wearing a blue ostrich feather attached to a spaghetti sieve on your head. To a purist like me, the Readymade Cabaret 2.0 was not really readymade nor cabaret, but was it any good?
The performance raised interesting questions about whether our lives are determined by fate, chance or free will.
Originally Dada poetry was created by cutting up a newspaper, placing the words in a hat and randomly pulling them out to make a poem. Mind, they didn’t have fridge magnet poetry back then. The Readymade Cabaret 2.0 celebrates this idea by cutting up scenes from longer narratives and randomly performing them for an online audience, who determines the order by rolling a dice. It is up to you to make the connections and form any meaning there may or may not be in the stories.
The term readymade comes from Marcel Duchamp, who declared everyday objects, like a urinal, art. Besides the compere wearing various household objects as head pieces, I didn’t quite get what the name readymade referred to. Same goes with cabaret, as there were no cabaret acts, excluding the all singing and dancing jester. Interactive variety performance yes, cabaret no.
The highlights were not the scripted scenes, but the spontaneously co-created Dada poems and dances performed by the jester. Another gem was a five-minute short film capturing the Dada spirit as I understand it beautifully. The live online show was built on the Shindig video conference software, which fitted the concept perfectly. The participating audience floated as an evermoving mosaic in the digital space. Very cool and very Dada.
This Is Not A Theatre Company is an American troupe known for creating interactive and participatory dance theatre. It’s not difficult to make the connection between Dada and America today. Dada rejects reason and logic while prizing nonsense and irrationality. Sounds familiar? Their work is not meant to be consumed passively, which is why the recorded version of the Readymade Cabaret 2.0 failed to engage. There was no real emotional attachment to the events unfolding on the screen.
For those experiencing the show live online, it was probably highly entertaining. The recorded version was a bit like random TV channel hopping just before dawn, when all the really strange shows are on. The performance raised interesting questions about whether our lives are determined by fate, chance or free will, but the emotional connection was lost in translation. Well, Dada is against meaning anyway.