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Unexploded Ordnances (UXO) - Barbican (The Pit)

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

SPLIT Britches are presenting Unexploded Ordnances (UXO) at the Attenborough Centre for Creative Arts, Brighton (March 13 – 14), Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff (March 27 – 31), the Barbican Centre, London (May 15 – 19) and the Take Me Somewhere Festival, Glasgow (May 26, 2018).

Unexploded Ordnances (UXO) is an up-to-the minute topical interactive show which takes unexploded ordnances as a metaphor for the unexplored potential in us all – particularly elders – and tries to uncover it.

Legendary performance duo Peggy Shaw and Lois Weaver evoke the Cold War paranoia of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove to seek solutions to the problems keeping us awake at night, as the audience counts down the final hour to doomsday on their phones.

On a stage that echoes the film’s iconic War Room, with a round table and doomsday images projected onto screens, Shaw and Weaver adopt the characters of a bombastic general and ineffectual president, lacing the performance with both playful urgency and lethargy and encouraging discussion about the political landscape.

The twelve eldest audience members are invited to enter the Situation Room and become a Council of Elders to discuss the global issues of the day from Trump, Brexit and Climate Change to the challenges of the ageing baby boom generation – as the company weave in satirical insights and spirit-lifting humour, resulting in a production where each show is unique.

Developed over two years through residencies with older people in London, Los Angeles and on New York’s historical Governor’s Island (where real undetonated civil war bombs lie buried beneath the surface), UXO is the latest show from the groundbreaking duo whose work is characterised by experimentation in form and political content, as well as plenty of pop culture references.

UXO marks Split Britches return to the UK following Peggy Shaw’s RUFF, which toured in 2016, including shows at the Barbican.

Speaking about the show Lois Weaver said: “We’ve always used performance to help us through our personal challenges — about being butch and going through the menopause, being femme and feeling invisible, or being an artist during the Reagan-Thatcher era.

“Now that we’re older we use performance to help us think about age. We started this project before Trump was elected and before Dr. Strangelove became as relevant as it is now. We drew from the doomsday urgency of the film, that something horrible is going to happen unless we do something. But it’s really about the urgency of time as an elder as well.”

Split Britches have been creating satirical, gender-bending performance for 37 years. Founded in New York in 1980 with Deb Margolin, the company’s work comprises methods for public engagement, videography, digital and print media, explorations of ageing and wellbeing, and iconic lesbian-feminist theatre.

Lois Weaver is an artist, activist, Professor of Contemporary Performance at Queen Mary, University of London and a Wellcome Trust Public Engagement Fellow. She was co-founder of Spiderwoman Theater, WOW and Artistic Director of Gay Sweatshop in London.

Peggy Shaw is a performer, writer, producer and teacher of writing and performance. She co-founded Split Britches and WOW in NYC. She is a veteran of Hot Peaches and Spiderwoman and has collaborated as writer and performer with Lois Weaver and Split Britches since 1980.

Unexploded Ordnances (UXO) is part of the Barbican’s 2018 Season, The Art of Change, which explores how artists respond to, reflect and can potentially effect change in the social and political landscape.

Unexploded Ordnances (UXO) is suitable for ages 16+.

Running Time: 1 hour 15 minutes.