Terrorists do not usually wear sequined gimp-masks and sparkly leather jackets, nor do they sing in three-part harmonies. Not, however, unless they are a group of beautifully blonde Scandinavians who call themselves ‘The Terrorist Club’. This fictional band of young revolutionaries glammed-up Tjarnarbíó last week, as the edgy performance ‘Martyrs Without Talent’ took to the stage. Based on the novel ‘Píslarvottar án hæfileika’ by Iceland’s Kári Tulinius, the play ‘Martyrs Without Talent’ is the experimental love-child of the Swedish performance group PotatoPotato.
Using an impressive range of multi-media techniques combined with physical theatre, song and moments of raw naturalism, ‘Martyrs Without Talent’ takes a wry look at today’s young, wide-eyed wannabe freedom fighters. The performance focuses on the relationship between three young would-be revolutionaries in pre-Kreppa Iceland. Forming a band (the Terrorist Club), these self-labelling “white and privileged” Scandinavians sing songs about bombs and guns, liberation and radical movements in a bid to stir up the activist spirit, incite change and overhaul the system. With catchy lyrics such as: “Shake the world! Blow it up! Come together! Don’t give a fuck!” the audience can’t help but be shocked by the glamorous image attached to such violent, albeit idealistic, sentiments.
In terms of performance, ‘Martyrs Without Talent’ really pushes the boundaries. Although sometimes a little rough and ready where transitions are not always smooth and the audience can see the seams, the effect of such raw theatre in fact fits the tone of the play perfectly. As the title suggests, these young revolutionaries are not polished professionals but somewhat naïve and inexperienced. They are motivated by big causes and big ideals, a desire to act without any real substance to what they are saying, no real understanding for the intricacies and detail. It is tragic to watch these young enthusiasts, so full of energy and hope, as they progressively lose their grip on reality and their idealistic thoughts gradually turn into provocative actions. It is the sporadic presence of a smiling leader, who communicates with the group via an iPad onstage, which adds to the sinister tone of the performance; divorced from the action, he is happy to instruct the young martyrs in their dangerous activities whilst drinking coffee and sunning himself safely from behind a computer screen.
Just as the young ‘Terrorist Club’ members are drawn into the glamorous image of revolution, so too are the audience drawn into the performance onstage. ‘Martyrs Without Talent’ is full of performative quirks; a glass of water, for example, is projected onto the wall whilst globs of oil are dropped into it, polluting the liquid so that it becomes murky and unclear, dancing like liver-spots across both the stage and actors’ bodies. In another example, the topless actors serve as a blank-canvas to project black-and-white photos of gun-wielding women and, as one girl falls face-first into a curtain (serving as a projector screen), she is swallowed by the disturbing images entirely. The actors’ balletic bomb-dances and Artaud-like gyration to gritty dubstep beats that shake the audience’s seats captures the electric buzz and confused, conflicting emotions of the young revolutionaries who, as the play progresses, come to the gradual realisation that their actions demand sacrifice, impact upon the innocent and may ultimately bring about their own deaths.
PotatoPotato’s experimental performance, ‘Martyrs Without Talent,’ makes a powerful statement about the dangers and allures that glamorising the revolutionary image poses towards young, impressionable people. In ‘Martyrs Without Talent,’ terrorism itself becomes a performance, an act, a role played by revolutionaries on the social stage. As the safety of songs turn into action, the boundaries between image and reality slowly begin to blend and blur, and the young activists get swept along with it. There is nothing pretentious about PotatoPotato’s performance, nothing art-for-art’s-sake; instead, with events such as the recent Boston bombings ringing in the audience’s ears, ‘Martyrs Without Talent’ offers a raw and gritty look at the undercurrents of revolution rippling through modern society, successfully fusing a touch of glam with the stark and gritty realities of revolution.
Talanglösa Martyrs (‘Martyrs Without Talent’) is a performance by the Mälmo-based PotatoPotato Arts Collective, based on the novel Píslarvottar án hæfileika by Icelandic author Kári Tulinus. PotatoPotato is currently on tour around Scandinavia, and performed ‘Martyrs Without Talent’, at Tjarnarbíó, Reykjavík on 25, 26, 27 April 2013. For more information, visit their website.