The presence of nothing – if such a thing is possible – is palpable throughout Wendy Houstoun’s solo Pact With Pointlessness. Sometimes the word “nothing” scrolls across a screen like a nihilistic news ticker. Sometimes Houstoun pops off stage, as if uncertain whether she should be here at all. In one scene, she gets us to imagine a forest in the empty space around her. In another, she does a “dance of nothing”. It’s full of rotations and switches, and, as far as you can tell, means nothing.
Pact With Pointlessness is Houstoun’s response to the death of her fellow dance artist Nigel Charnock, and the sense of death – nothingness – is pervasive. But so too is the presence of things – a chair, a microphone, a fire bucket; a projected monitor showing data logs, crash reports, Google searches; the sounds of fairground tunes, angelic choirs, brassy blues; and Houstoun herself, running in circles, trying out random step sequences, or chattering away in aimless but amusing puns and platitudes because, well, it’s do or die, isn’t it?
The presence of something – you could call that life. Houstoun, matter-of-factly, just calls it stuff.
The presence of something – you could call that life. Houstoun, matter-of-factly, just calls it stuff. Sometimes it’s stuff she has to deal with: interruptions by audiovisual glitches, offstage whistles parping at her as if the Almighty were some annoying referee. Sometimes it’s stuff that she does herself. She skips along with an imaginary partner, then tires of her own game and chucks sand about instead. She spins a yarn about body parts in a pub at closing time, one by one packing up to go home.
The performance poses what Houstoun calls the big questions, such as: why are we here? She offers provisional, person-sized and perhaps even pointless responses in a piece that is a bit weird, a bit witty and a bit wise.