Angélica Liddell Makes Her US Debut at On the Boards

Spanish theater artist Angélica Liddell is making her US debut this weekend at On the Boards in Seattle, where she presents Te haré invencible con mi derrota, a solo performance that involves a remarkable amount of self-destruction. The show is based on the life of Jacqueline du Pré, the British cellist whose tragic life and death was the subject of the controversial biopic Hilary and Jackie. Liddell though, seems to be using du Pré’s experience as little more than a jumping off point for her own explorations. As she told one interviewer [PDF]:

I identified my own spiritual demise with Jacqueline’s demise. She died at the age of 42, the age in which my life blew up, the age in which I entered true adult life, alone, in which I couldn’t bear the idea of growing old, the idea of losing my youth, in which my body triumphed over my will, my body drew me away from love and pleasure, and towards a terrible anxiety, towards panic. I felt the same as Jackie, the same. And I used her as an interlocutor with hell, not from a hagiographic perspective, but from a supernatural, demented one.

Cheery Ms. Liddell is not. Her piece is likewise extremely intense, involving an intense consumption of alcohol as well as onstage cutting (she has a day off during the one-week run to recover). “I abuse my body because it’s the only way I have to feel that I still have a body,” she told Seattle weekly The Stranger. “If I have no pleasure, I have to feel my body through pain.”

Still, Liddell’s work has a growing international reputation for its brutal, soul-baring quality. This work made waves at Avignon in 2010; we’ll have to see how American audiences respond.

Update: Seattle’s newspaper critics have been painfully silent on Liddell’s work, but the best performing arts writer in town–and my former boss–Michael van Baker has a fantastic, must-read review:

Te haré invencible con mi derrota is the gnomic title of Angélica Liddell’s deeply unsettling performance … It means “I will make you invincible with my defeat,” although the performance may defeat you, if you have a low tolerance for someone drunkenly slicing into herself with razor blades, driving broken glass into her back, or piercing her fingers like a pin cushion, while you watch.

It’s not a show I thought I’d find myself arguing on behalf of, and yet here I am. The normally up-for-anything On the Boards audience sat in stunned silence as Liddell’s footsteps faded away, the door clanging shut behind her as the show ended. The stage was still lit in its stations of her via dolorosa: a BB rifle, a paint gun, a blowtorch, a topiary, a microwave, a painting, a chair, a collection of cellos, bread (now scattered), a wax hand sitting in a cooling pool of itself. After a long while, someone tried clapping again, and it caught on, raggedly, though not forcefully. It was like clapping for a crucifixion.

Click here to read it all on The SunBreak.

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