Looking for Paul — Wunderbaum

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review (theatre): Looking for Paul — Wunderbaum at Summerhall (Venue 26). Reviewed by Sally Stott

[A smart critique of egomaniacal artists and arts funding decisions — with mayonnaise]

“What is art?” isn’t a question I’d have thought I’d be desperate to write about at 1am in the morning, but here I am. That’s what happens when you go to Summerhall for a late-night show and this one, by the Dutch-Flemish company Wunderbaum, is a delicious satire come theatrical documentary, which questions public arts funding decisions in a timely, thrillingly meta-theatrcial and very funny way.

What’s real and what isn’t is deliberately blurred. We’re introduced to Inez van Dam who, with all the nerves of someone who isn’t an actor, gives a photo presentation about her idyllic life in Rotterdam – something that has been shattered by a publicly funded statue outside her house, by conceptual artist Paul McCarthy, referred to by locals as “gnome butt plug”.

The members of Wunderbaum tell of how they decided to take Inez to LA to confront McCarthy as part of their own (also publicly funded) performance. Through reading out e-mails sent at the time, the hypocrisies, egos and ulterior motivations of artists in love with being artists hilariously emerge, along with opposing ideas about what their project should look like. Should it be an intellectual debate on funding models? A revival of A Streetcar Named Desire? Or “more like Pina Bausch?”

Ultimately, Inez finds herself taking part in a piece that feels more like a bad homage to McCarthy than a “revenge action” – in which mayonnaise is pissed over Virginia Woolf and everyone ends up covered in excrement and spaghetti.
There’s a danger this sequence relies on the shock factor being criticised elsewhere, but at its best the piece is a highly entertaining, smart critique of pretentious, directionless performances and artists using real people’s stories to further their own self-interests. All that’s missing is a post-show debate in which we try and make ourselves look clever by discussing “the issues”. Oh wait; that’s kind of what I’m doing here…

Until tomorrow. Today 10:30pm, more info

Originally published in The Scotsman

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