While Bron Batten’s performance of Sweet Child of Mine (seemingly) did not seek to directly explore ideas of ageing and care; making the piece with her father led to an additional layer of performance gently weaving itself in. In this piece, the lines between Bron’s relationship to her parents on and off stage begin to blur.
In the piece, the artist interviews her parents about what they imagine she does for a living. This projected, hardly edited, documentary-like footage of Batten’s conversations with her parents gets us to think about art and performance. What are they for? Who might they be aimed at? What’s the point of it all?
For Bron Batten, those questions led to her making and touring a performance with her father for the last five years. Performance becomes a way of finding out more about each other, and of opening out a conversation across generations and on both sides of the fourth wall.
This, however is not the performance that was presented during this Edinburgh Fringe. Not quite. Due to an unforeseen illness, Bron Batten’s father, James has been unable to travel to Scotland to perform the show with his daughter.
With ten days to go until the start of the festival, Batten sought support from the local arts community to recruit local dads to stand in for her own.
Beyond the comment and gentle satire of contemporary art, James Batten’s absence - and his daughter’s decision* that ‘the show must go on’ - bring an additional signifying layer to the piece. Indeed, with life expectancy having significantly increased in recent decades, most people currently enjoy longer adult relationships with their parents. As these relationships evolve over time, carer/cared for dynamics shift. In Sweet Child of Mine, Bron Batten is now ‘orphaned’ on stage, and beyond the theatrical framework, we become aware that she will soon become a carer to her ageing parents.
Elsewhere, in Joanna Griffin’s Bricking It, while her father Patrick is indeed present on stage with her, the absence felt is that of their mother and wife whose death prompted the making of the piece, during which Griffin jokingly asserts; “it’s cheaper to bring my dad on stage with me than to put him in a care home”.
A few Fringes ago, Simon Bowes took to the stage with his father in a poetic exploration of the passing of time, with his mother watching from the front row, prepared with cue cards for her husband. A whole family present, but the disappearing of memories and the perceived increase in the speed of time passing.
Opening up their personal relationships to their makers’ families, each of those performances invites us to consider and re-define how we might choose to age, and manage ageing alongside our kin. (LB)
* It feels important to note that the performance itself doesn’t inform us as to whether the decision to adapt the performance to accommodate James Batten’s absence was artistically driven or purely circumstantial.
Sweet Child of Mine ran at Gilded Balloon Teviot until August 29th - https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/sweet-child-of-mine
Journal of Marriage & Family article on intergenerational bonds: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2001.00001.x/full
Annual Review of Sociology article on intergenerational family relations in adulthood: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27800075?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
Bron Batten’s website: https://bronbatten.com/
Information on Bricking It: https://making-room.co.uk/portfolio/bricking-it/
Information on Kings of England’s Where We Live & What We Live For featuring Simon Bowes and his father: http://kingsofengland.tumblr.com/WWL&WWLF