The Verse’s Charlotte Crane tells us what she thought of David Shrigley’s ‘A Problem in Brighton’, part of the Brighton Festival 2018.
It’s pretty well known by now that David Shrigley was this year’s guest curator of the Brighton Festival. I was incredibly excited to learn that he would be showcasing some of his own pieces as part of the festival. All I knew about this particular show, previous to seeing it was that Shrigley had designed his own guitars. Most of which only had a single string. Although I loved this idea, the rest of the performance was a complete mystery to me. A Problem in Brighton was advertised as an ‘alt-rock pantomime’, and although definitely rocky, I would personally describe it as more of a comedy rock gig than a pantomime. I had high hopes for this show, with the programme noting that ‘there will be a mosh pit’. Alas, things didn’t get quite that exciting.
The description of this show is probably what let it down the most. The anticipation surrounding what was going to be presented to me lead my imagination to spiral. Convincing myself that this performance was going to be incredibly ground-breaking was perhaps my own fault, and I have since realised that it was never going to be laugh out loud funny or incredibly exciting. Shrigley’s art, although I adore it, never amounts to much more than a chuckle from me. A Problem in Brighton represented exactly what the rest of his pieces do. Satirical, dark, a bit haphazard. I just can’t help but feel that A Problem in Brighton lacked Shrigley’s usual self-awareness. Perhaps that’s the point?
The show essentially consisted of a band (called Problem) performing bizzare and simple songs, one after the other. Particular favourites of mine included a whole song dedicated to one of the band member’s mother and how she wanted to join the band. Also, one song where frontwoman Pauline Knowles literally just recites many different styles of shoes.
Another song was literally just repeating the names ‘Jacob Rees Mogg’ and ‘Michael Gove’ over and over. Although I can see this was a cheap shot, performing a silly song about some tory politicians to a green party/labour city, I for one still found it very funny.
Although it definitely wasn’t a pantomime, there were moments of slapstick. Shrigley had made one of the guitars let out a deep bassy ringing if it was hit against anything. In the instance of this show, that thing was the front man of the band’s head.
Although the quality of the performance was perhaps not seen as meeting the usual standard of a top billed Brighton Festival gig, it was definitely still in keeping with Shrigley’s brand of humour and obscurity. I could see how someone who wasn’t that in to Shrigley may have been disappointed, but let’s be honest, I highly doubt anyone who attended wasn’t already a fan of his. All in all, it was fun, but I probably wouldn’t rush to see it for a second time.