A Simplicity Sublime


What Love Would Want

Lindsay Kemp, Tim Arnold & Andy Fallon

The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, UK

17th June 2017

Subtitled "A Private View" on the ticket What Love Would Want is a majestic creation, a perfect collision of artfulness and honesty. Spread over the entire day and based upon a song of that name by Tim Arnold it is a project that has a universal directness that only requires people in love. In the afternoon they arrive to be photographed by Andy Fallon whose shots have a profound intimacy, and filmed by Tim for inclusion in a new video specific to the Manchester participants. There is no gender specific requirements, and in many cases when facing their respective partners tears are shed. From humble origins it has grown and mutated into major events in London and Toronto, and now Manchester. It will continue to evolve because it is a limitless, endless task, a project that could take root and flourish anywhere. There is a 1960's optimism to its ethos, but it isn't mawkish or twee. Its roots are what makes us tick, get up in the morning and cross continents for that basic need for, and to see another person. The portraits speak of that great intangible emotion and tenderly exposes the subjects and their needs.

The work of the afternoon over, the evening begins with Tim Arnold singing his song. A man alone on a huge stage with touching epic ballad with the most non-judgemental simplicity. "He for She. She for He? He for He? She for She?" and on the screen behind him the portraits of the day flash by. He then performs it again but this time with pianist Emmanuel Vass whose technique lifts and swirls with refined classicism, as the Manchester Lesbian and Gay Chorus elevate the proceedings to near monumental pathos. It is all being recorded and filmed so a second take is required but by this point the audience is transfixed and transported and are only too glad to have a third hearing.

Then comes the fourth rendition and this is where a touch of genius arrives and soars in expressive grace in the form of the performance artist and dancer, and early mentor of David Bowie and Kate Bush, Lindsay Kemp. Resplendent in all white costume and face make-up he resembles a Kabuki androgyne with outstretched elongated arms he glides and smoothly contorts becoming the sentiment implicit in the song. As the lights change he is a golden figure of a gracefulness divine, an astonishing feat for an eighty year old and the nearest thing to exquisite I have witnessed in a long while. All too soon the song has ended and Kemp dissolves into the darkness and a moment of pure magic has flown.

Afterwards there is a "Question and Answer" session. Kemp is a walking anecdotal treasure trove. From performing Salome bedecked in toilet roll as there was a shortage of veils at his boarding school, a caper that nearly saw him expelled, or doing his cabaret routine half a century ago between bouts at a wrestling match in Manchester he could do an Evening With no problem. His right eye-brow should really have it's own Equity Card as it raises above a symphony of glances and pursed pouts. Tim Arnold speaks movingly about being brought up by his lesbian mothers and about wanting to sing "What Love Would Want" at the Chechen border, a country that has gulags for gay people, before he is advised by the actor Stephen Fry that such an act will likely see him shot on sight.

And so it ends with huge bunches of flowers for the participants, but these are immediately dwarfed by an enormous bouquet, a mini hedgerow of blooms that is presented to Lindsay Kemp who is momentarily startled. They are from his former pupil and collaborator Kate Bush. He does a brief mime of delight. A perfect ending, and one that couldn't be scripted in a night that briefly gives us hope about ourselves and the power of love. As soon as I step through the doors of the Bridgewater Hall I am immediately accosted by a homeless man and the bubble almost burst as it sometimes does. I gave him my change and he was full of thanks, so the love of the evening crept into the night for someone who hadn't been there, but required just a little of its continuing love. 

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