Livia Rita – singer, designer, choreographer, film maker and visual artist – is without a doubt the textbook multihyphenate, and rest assured their Wild Card premiere of FUTURA Glitch at the Lilian Baylis Studio adjoining Sadler’s Wells was hyphens abound. Even as I sat eating soup in the café before the show, I was drawn to a small interactive installation ran by their ‘coven’. At various stations I was guided through sound art, homemade scents, and a manifestation ritual involving horseradish, parsley, and cranberry juice. The walls were adorned with images and small eclogues of text relating to different themes.
In spite of this initiation, I had no idea what to expect when the show actually begun. Ostensibly this is part of the idea: according to the Sadler’s Wells website, the appropriately named Wild Card entails ‘a new generation of artists [being[ invited to curate their own night.’ At the very least, I inferred there would be music, dance, and elaborate costumes. As Rita began singing while emerging from a blossoming flower, I thought I knew what I was in for: a highly choreographed and ‘showy’ live performance by a singer with a small ensemble. Rita’s presence on stage (or in this case, in studio) is undeniable, and her voice is categorically good. As are their songs – this was hyper/electropop done well. She wormed her way through the audience and covertly demanded they reformulate themselves as she uncovered new audience-performer paradigms for each segment.
Then the coven came out, bringing Rita’s hyphens with them. Up until this point in the first act, Rita was alone, other than a sole performer who mostly remained stationary. As the performance progressed, we came to know and (maybe) love each member of the coven. There was the ivy-covered moss creature, the shroud in stilts, the pale duo who looked like woodland sprites. And with their introduction, Rita knew to pull away in the interest of the show, and at times, the music gave way to movement: there was now a glimpse of narrative. Individual members even had their own talents which shone, such as the moss creature’s brass solo, and the extended harp solo.
If the first act was the whacky act, the second half was the concerted act. From the get-go, something was different – the narrative choreography was more synchronic, and the music felt like a setlist, like songs rather than an experience. Where the electronic sounds of the first act sometimes felt like a backing track, one of the coven was now a visible DJ in the second. Perhaps to some, this is less of an achievement. I would argue that what the second half achieved was greater than the achievement of the first. While the harp, brass, movement, et. al. in the first act was wonderful, they dragged. While the costume changes of the first act were cool, they occurred in the second with a lesser frequency but a greater impact.
The finale of the second act was truly the highlight, however: the DJ began to play a simple, repetitive, but rhythmically addictive techno beat, and Rita began a dance routine. Then, the coven joined in. Then, a couple of audience members. This continued for between 15 and 20 minutes – take this with a pinch of salt, since time dissolved during this period – with everyone in the audience gradually being drawn into this iterative dance. FUTURA Glitch was intensely at its most organic now, and I think this is what it was trying to achieve throughout: a magical space at the crossroads between technology and nature.
At one of the installations before the show, I was told that FUTURA Glitch was ‘kind of’ about the earth, and truthfully, some parts of the show were lost in translation and in the hyphens. I never figured out what the sole performer who remained stationary was doing. Rita should chase the flame which kindled towards the end of the second act. The symbiosis peaked as we were escorted out – artist applauded audience, and audience applauded artist. What a feeling.
You can watch the trailer here: www.sadlerswells.com/whats-on/wild-card-livia-rita-futura-glitch/
For upcoming shows / Livia Rita’s 2022 tour: liviarita.com/upcomingshows
Wild Card Livia Rita Futura Glitch / Photography by Camilla Greenwell
Cian Kinsella is a Classics teacher and part-time pub quizmaster living in London who is primarily interested in music but is also interested in theatre, literature, and visual arts. He is particularly intrigued by the relationship between art, criticism, and the capital forces always at play. Furthermore, he believes that subjectivity – which is ultimately at the heart of all artistic and cultural criticism – should not be concealed, but probed and perhaps even celebrated. Who decides what we like? How do they construct widely held beliefs about what is good? These are two of the questions Cian looks to address.