A Voice Heard By All: Dickie Beau, Lost in Trans

Hailed as a “Performance phenomenon and gender disillusionist”, C James Fagan attempts to describe the work of artist and performer Dickie Beau…

I’ve spoken before of taxonomy, the systems we use to catalogue and describe the world, of how much of this is decided before you’re born.

How the world sets into categories Man, Woman, Gay, Straight, Cat, Dog, Mod, Rocker etc, and how each classification comes with a set of unspoken rules which filter through the generations like rumours of a once perfect life.

So it should be simple to follow a well-trodden path, yourself a fixed point moving from point A to B onwards.

“Within this maelstrom stands Dickie Beau… a medium for found sound on ¾ magnetic tape”

Only we know that the world isn’t like this, we are not like this, your passage through life isn’t an immovable track; it’s more like a river. It might seem to be all heading in the same direction but there are eddies and undercurrents, constantly changing and shifting.

We are mutable beings able to reform our identities in ways previous generations couldn’t. A freedom afforded us through changes of technology, and switches in cultural attitudes and individual experiences.

Within this maelstrom stands Dickie Beau, bringing his Southbank Centre commission, Lost in Trans, to the Unity Theatre last Wednesday. He serves to act as a medium for found sound on ¾ magnetic tape; in this case, taking inspiration from the classic mythology of Narcissus and Echo. So the story goes, after Echo’s love for Narcissus is rejected, she is made to disappear by the goddess Aphrodite, until she “remains a voice” and “is heard by all.”

Dickie Beau: Lost in Trans

Beau cuts an almost spectral figure on stage; there’s something unusual about his presence, at once unique and yet unremarkable. There’s a feeling of excitement, of the blank canvas, and the tension of possibility. Beau moves about the stage in a quiet, measured way; no movement appears to be out of place.

In retrospect this element of Beau reminds me of film soundtracks, an aspect which is unobtrusive and yet vital to mould the narrative. We see an extension of the ‘drag queen’ act, in particular the use of lip- synching, to draw out and emphasize the pathos and emotion within the source material.

Beau serves as conduit for the found voices, disconnected from their origins to be reformed via patterns on tape, Beau taking them and reforming them, creating an identity based on the tones and timbre of the found voice, thus enacting the tale of two lovers reduced to voices.

“Beau is totally inhabited by these voices, and through that loses his own identity, becoming a puppet for all their wants and desires”

Throughout there is a sense of loss, Beau is totally inhabited by these voices (main video, channelling Minette), and through that loses his own identity, becoming a puppet for all their wants and desires. Here we see the risks of the mutability of human identity, the risk of losing the original identity. Even in the press release handed out beforehand, Beau himself talks of how even his family have adopted his stage name.

For me, this highlights one very important component of identity, that it is also dependent on the perceptions of others. For me as viewer, only Dickie Beau, in the myriad forms he appeared to me, exists, and Richard Boyce (the ‘real’ man behind the performer) exists only as dried ink on my press release.

Now, writing this, he exists as a memory, an echo, a way of finding a new identity which endures in the minds and emotional reactions of the viewer. As you watch him, there is a part of you that for a brief moment becomes Dickie Beau; our identities all combining in a singular experience.

Of course, as soon as this experience comes into being, it fractures, becoming an echo carried within the individuals, and when Beau is gone he remains a voice heard by all.

See more on Dickie Beau here

The main Homotopia Festival continues until end November 2013; see full programme here

Posted on 08/11/2013 by thedoublenegative