by Julia French on 10th May 2016
Gathering the audience in the street and lining them up against a wall may be a slightly alarming start, but Jolie Booth proceeds to weave a visualisation so utterly convincing, that by the time she leads you up the stairs into the theatre you truly believe that you are creeping into her newly cracked squat. Hip tells Booth’s own story in parallel with, and focusing much more on, the life journey of a women called Anne Clarke. A brilliant blend of social history, self- reflection and biography, this show is the true story of the discovery of a woman’s life and what it meant to the finder.
As Booth leads us into the space, explaining the importance of posting your section 6 notice on the door and ensuring that there is no evidence of a break in, she is recreating her introduction to the remnants of Ann’s life that she found in her first squat. She manages to create a sense of nostalgia for a time and place, when Brighton was rather rawer, that only some of the audience will be familiar with.
The space is beautifully filled with the knick knacks and kitsch that had surrounded Ann during her counterculture existence from the sixties. The whole creation looks and feels gorgeously authentic. As the audience filters into the round, taking up position on seats and cushions, they are encouraged, but not bullied, into full engagement. This is a multi-sensory, immersive performance with strong audience participation that Booth is calling an “extra-live” event.
She takes a conversational, workshop-like approach as she uses an overhead projector and record player to embellish her story telling. She is an exceptional story teller; her gymnastic use of language is interspersed with a significant amount of poetry and in a clever move she uses the audience to read some prepared letters and texts. This expands the range of voices available to her and creates a collaborative atmosphere.
When Booth initiated a séance type scene, it was clear from the speed at which the audience joined hands that everyone was in a comfortable place. This comfort was enhanced by the addition of vegan party food, Handel on the record player, incense and Tequila. Yes, there was Tequila provided to toast the spirit of Anne. Any longstanding Brightonians will be continually delighted by the constant niche references and immensely strong sense of place and tribe created by this event, and I really hope this translates to non-natives just as well.
Although this show is extremely funny for much of the time, the heart of this story is painfully and breathtakingly sad. The sum total of a life is examined and evaluated for worth. Having read Anne Clark’s letters and diaries, Jolie Booth wanted to say thank you to her: “Thank you for learning the lessons for me”. Which rather succinctly sums up a large part of why stories exist in the first place.
by Bill Parslow on 10th May 2016
Hip was a sell-out on the night I attended, perhaps because it feeds into our deepest curiosity about the real people who live around us. It’s the story of a building in the centre of Brighton, the woman who moved in to squat there, and the person who lived in it before.
It was a faintly bizarre experience to hear someone trying to reconstruct the life of a woman I didn’t know, but who it turned out I must have met, and will have known friends and house mates. I have to declare that at the beginning, because it added an unusual colour to my vision of the show – there was no-one else of my generation or older there.
Jolie Booth starts with us all outside the Marlborough, and we’re led back in as if quietly entering a squat for the first time. Inside, the performance is in the round. Booth tells the story of finding Anny Clark’s hip bone, her spices, and more importantly her diaries and her letters. She asks audience members to read out extracts from these as we go on a journey exploring someone else life through what they left behind.
It’s a slightly voyeuristic experience, with that vicarious sense of discovery that you get from going to a Brighton Open House and finding the house more interesting than the art. But where Open Houses are always neat, clean and privileged, Anny’s life was messy, interesting, and full of the counter-culture of the sixties and seventies.
Booth invites people to sit comfortably, and to speak out and add things to her reconstruction of Anne’s life; when she’s unsure whether the Windsor pub is now the Earth and Stars, for example, someone in the audience is able to confirm it. The improvised nature of the performance gives an even more intimate feel to the tour through Anne’s memorabilia, possessions and innermost thoughts, as expressed in her diaries. There is no imposed direction – indeed Booth asks the audience to choose two particular aspects of Anne’s life out of five on offer – which adds to our sense of exploring a very real life, with all its unanswered as well as answered questions.
Booth treats Anne with a respectful curiosity and affection, but it’s still a slightly unsettling experience. I was glad to toast her memory with tequila (part of the show), while still being aware that alcoholism had dogged her life. The show is full of uneasy juxtapositions like that, and parallels too – Booth reads from her own diaries and compares her life to Anne’s. It feels like she found a kindred spirit in Anne Clark, and that is what gives strength to the show; lifts it into a thoughtful celebration of her life, not just a dissection.
by LGBT Arts Review on 9th February 2017
Before HIP starts outside the Vaults in Waterloo, the audience are told to gather behind some railings at the front of the venue and wait. It’s a potentially difficult beginning to the performance – a self-conscious crowd, commuters glancing curiously over, people arriving for other shows – but any awkwardness disappears when suddenly a woman appears in front of us, excited and eager to tell her story. Performer Jolie Booth is immediately in control, inviting us to imagine that we’re looking up at the window of the Brighton squat she once lived in. Once she has led us into the performance space, ostensibly the inside of the squat, the story of two lives begins to unfold – hers and that of Anne Clarke, a previous resident. The way their stories are revealed is moving, fascinating and beautifully handled.
Booth’s intention that the performance be ‘Extra-Live’, and therefore relaxed and inclusive, makes for a touching and intimate evening – a playfully theatrical experience that rises above mere theatricality. Booth’s charm makes her a captivating storyteller and her research into Clarke’s life and obvious care for and connection to her subject shines through as she invites the audience into a sharing of hopes, aspirations and objects. She asks audience members to read out extracts from Clarke’s letters and passes round pictures, diaries, food and drink. As questions of memory, friendship, community and activism swirl around, we are each encouraged to embrace the here and now, as well as the past. The end of the show merges into a Q&A session, which while interesting, somewhat breaks the spell. Perhaps the imaginative framework that Booth so successfully harnesses at the beginning of Hip could be utilised to draw it gently to a more succinct close, so as not to spoil the reflective, open and warm atmosphere she has worked hard to create.
by Londoncitynights on 2nd February 2017
In Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury wrote: "Everyone must leave something behind when he dies. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched in some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there."
Jolie Booth's Hip is about this exact kind of soft immortality, poring over the fingerprints left by a person after their death. In 2002 Booth founded a squat in Brighton and upon cracking it open she discovered the dusty artefacts of a dead woman, Anne Clarke. Scattered about the place were her books, diaries, art, correspondence, photographs, records - even a hip bone (maybe Ann's own after her hip replacement in later life). Booth, feeling the instinct to honour the woman whose house she now occupied, began assembling this papery puzzle.
What she ended up with was a melancholic portrait of a life, peppered with happiness, sadness, pride, disappointment, adventure and hedonism. Born in 1939, Clarke married a young artist and became embroiled in 1960s counter-culture. She became a staple of hippie Brighton; working in Infinity Foods and founding an occult bookshop, managing to fit in some casual hash smuggling along the way. But as the optimistic 60s bled into the cynical 70s life began to subtly curdle, culminating in a mysterious 16 year blank. Clarke's story concludes with a snippy rejection letter from a cigarette company competition and her death at just 59.
Booth stages this with conspiratorial friendliness, playing historical tour guide as she lays out Clarke's biography combined with a smidge of her own. Sat around a growing pile of Clarke's stuff, documents are passed around the audience, allowing us to do our own miniature bit of sleuthing, letters are handed out to audience members to read aloud (nicely bringing them to life) and we're talked through some artwork she created. There's even nibbles and drinks - pineapple and cheese, Twiglets and shots of tequila.
There's a lot of emotions swirling around in Hip. Prime among them is a cool sense of your own mortality - it's impossible not to look at this yellowing pile of paper and objects and wonder what you'll leave behind after you've kicked the bucket. Everyone likes to think they'll leave some grand mark of the world and, at first glance, Clarke didn't. In the grand scale of things, the life of a former 60s radical turned alcoholic, largely ignored by her children as her (and her generation's) hopes were gradually leached away by disappointment and booze, doesn't add up to much.
But as Booth digs deeper, we come to understand that material success comes a distant second to the part of you that lives on in other people - even an unassuming health food shop bean-pourer can be intimately involved in the cultural fabric of the 20th century.
It all makes for a friendly, touching and philosophically taut show, always functioning on a couple of different levels at once. Equal parts funny/sad and always fascinating, this social archaeology is compelling stuff, not to mention that Booth is a great storyteller. It's now on tour - I'd recommend checking it out. Did I mention there's tequila?
Remember the old song,”if you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise”? Well, let’s bring it right up to date with some new lyrics so, altogether now “If you go down to the Vaults this month you’re sure of a big surprise”. Yes, the annual Vaults festival is back causing thousands of people to go underneath Waterloo station, walk along the fascinating road known as graffiti street and enter a subterranean world where not just every night is a different but every hour brings surprises galore. Last night I had my first visit to the festival of 2017, to see Jolie Booth’s one woman show Hip.
Now, the first thing about this show you need to know is that this is not an ordinary show. Any production that starts with a notice at the entrance stating “This is an Extra-live Performance. Audiences are invited to respond to a show in whatever way feels natural; Latecomers’ are permitted” is not going to be a run of the mill affair and Hip definitely isn’t. Like many of these shows, I have to try and avoid spoilers as they are shows to be experienced. What I can say is that Hip is a semi-autobiographical one woman show, based around objects found in a flat caught between two timelines: the home of Anne Clarke during 70s bohemian Brighton, and a squat established in 2002.
Jolie, is a natural storyteller who can tell an audience to look up and see a grimy skylight and that is indeed what they see when they look at the roof of the vault the show is in. When she points out a curtain in the corner of the stage and tells you this is the very dodgy bathroom in the squat, you can’t help but believe her. There is a real air of authenticity in Jolie’s delivery that means even if the entire story is fiction and she was in reality a silver spoon girl brought up in a Hampstead mansion rather than a bohemian young lady in a squat above Anne Summers, you would still believe every word.
What else can I say about Hip? Its part promenade, part immersive and part interactive theatre. It is all these and more and ultimately, it is a fascinating hour of theatre. The work that has been put into the show is immense with documents, letters, pictures, heck there’s even some spices. In fact, from an attention to detail point of view, this is probably one of the most thoroughly prepared shows I have ever seen. If I have one minor criticism, then it was the music which accompanied parts of the show. A few times I found it a bit distracting trying to work out why a particular piece was playing. But apart from that, I can’t fault the production. It even made me stop in my tracks and question everything I had ever thought about squatters and the societal importance of the squatting culture, now pretty much gone. I enjoyed those areas where Anne and Jolie’s life coincided and the lessons that Jolie learned from Anne as if she was reaching back forward from her time, making sure Jolie didn’t fall into the same traps that she did.
All in all then, my first visit to the Vaults Festival was a resounding success. Hip is a one hour exploration of people and the things, both physical and abstract, left behind after their ephemeral time on this earth and is highly recommended.
by Glen Pearce on 10th May 2016
Our local history tends to focus on the gentry or the famous, but just as fascinating, in fact often more so, is the history of those who slip under the radar.
In Jolie Booth’s ‘extra-live’ version of her one-woman show Hip, she recounts the real-life story of Brighton woman, Anne Clarke, who died alone in a Brighton flat now being used as a squat.
The audience is assembled outside the Marlborough Pub and Theatre and told to imagine we are actually outside the squat above an Anne Summers store. We’re instructed to enter ‘the squat’ quietly to avoid alerting the authorities. Inside the theatre, we’re seated in the round as if in the squats living room. Booth then proceeds to unravel the tale of Anne’s life, a woman who died alone in the flat. What is left behind when a person is forgotten and alone, how is their story told and shared? Slowly Booth pieces together the fragments of the previous occupants life, drawing us into a deeply personal story as the two women’s lives intertwine.
There’s a sense of camaraderie in the room as we’re invited to invoke the spirit of Anne, to share vegan cheese and pineapple on sticks, and to journey into the woman’s letters and diaries. It may seem voyeuristic at first but there’s a sense that this is a life that should be recorded, remembered and recounted.
For non-Brightonians, some of the local resonance is lost, but there is enough universality here to allow connection. In the fringe environment and under time constraint, the story is, sadly, cut short and we only get to scratch the surface, but after an hour in the company of Booth we feel we know Annie well and are happy to raise a glass to her memory.
Booth’s engaging style and easy rapport with the audience holds the piece together and its testament to the strength of her storytelling skills that we are kept laughing and engaged throughout. An inventive and important exploration of local oral history.
by Lisa Woolfe on 10th May 2016
I like a traditional boozer: wood panels, carpet, functioning jukebox, and a decent sherry. So it’s no surprise that the Heart and Hand in Brighton’s North Laine has long been a favourite. Years ago I noticed a framed poem on the wall; odd, I thought, it doesn’t quite suit the rest of the décor.
Now, thanks to Jolie Booth’s forensic and enlightening piece, I have knowledge not just of the poet, Lee Harwood (check his Guardian obituary) but also his muse. The poem, titled ‘The Heart and Hand, North Rd Brighton, for Ann’ [sic], is dedicated to one Anne Clark and it is Anne’s world that we’ll inhabit for too short a time tonight.
The show starts outside the Marlborough Theatre, as a promenade with a nod to psychogeography: ‘Here is the Clocktower, here is Pizza Hut.’ Jolie is our tour leader, telling the story of how she squatted a Brighton flat in 2002.
We follow her inside and quietly up the narrow stairs, and enter a 1970s counter-culture happening, with the audience as guests at a bohemian party. Jolie performs a little ceremony, Rumi is recited, incense burned, and we summon the previous occupant of the flat who died four years earlier. Here comes Anne Clark, whose possessions remain in situ: diaries, letters, artwork, records. Jolie rescued the ephemera of Anne’s life from the bailiffs and it has become central to her life now, as a maker of interactive theatre. The setting is spot-on, with a lava-lamp, floor cushions, Little Feat on the gramophone, cheese and pineapple on sticks. There is subtle and evocative lighting and effective use of a hand-held torch – it’s a squat after all.
Once settled, and with the spirit of Anne now present, Jolie begins to show us what the bundles of correspondence left behind reveal, about a woman and a life. We get to feel the yellowing paper of her many letters to friends and family; some of us read passages aloud. An overhead projector magnifies a court summons(unlawful behaviour on the Victoria Gardens) and photographs of the pubs Anne frequented. Most revealing is a timeline Jolie has compiled from thorough reading of the diaries. They show a big gap in knowledge for the last twenty years of Anne’s life; what happened? There are parallels too with Jolie’s own life and experience, as she’s also a longtime diary writer and they actually used the same brand. She tells us that such coincidences appear daily, as if she has triggered something, something connecting her to Anne. People Anne worked with, at Avalon Bookshop, or Wax Factor, provide new background. Her daughter has been in touch. The landlady of the Heart and Hand is coming to see the show.
It’s impossible not to be moved by the stories and the gradual piecing together of a history. We get to choose subjects for deeper exploration from bags labelled Hedonism, Work, Mother, Travel, and more. There’s a description of a proper 1970s threesome, photos of her working at Infinity Foods, a poem about dusting – or rather, not dusting.
Jolie is the perfect host, gently authoritative, in control of her material yet slightly in awe of it. As performance it is fascinating to watch and be part of, and there are some nice directorial touches – the eponymous hip-bone gets used as a telephone, a vibrator becomes a flute (Emma Kilbey and Brian Lobel contributed to the making process.)
Jolie describes the show as ‘ultra-real theatre’ by which she means that the audience is welcome to use their phones, move about, and interrupt as they wish. In this environment there is little opportunity for conversation and the action is quite tightly controlled. It’s a shame, because there is so much more to discover and to share.
We’ll just have to repair to the wood-panelled, carpeted, multi-gendered bar of the Marlborough pub instead. Jolie proclaims, over a Tequila toast to Anne Clark, ‘thank you for trailblazing your way through life.’ In an age of instant communication and fleeting memories, Hip is a hugely enjoyable, engaging and at times profound reflection on what we create and what we leave behind.
by Zelah Senior on 14th May 2016
Hip is a brilliantly staged and originally conceived performance, hosted by the disarmingly relaxed and likeable Booth.
Hip’s story line is well-written and intriguing. It highlights the links between Booth and Annie, the woman who used to inhabit the flat that she squatted, and provides a comfortable structure in which we are invited to explore questions around memory, tribe, kinship, and connections between lives. It’s also a fascinating glimpse of Brighton life over the last half century.
The performance is outstanding in its capacity to get the audience to willingly suspend their disbelief, and yet be totally and utterly present. From the moment that Booth met us in front of the Marlborough pub, she set the tone of the show: stripping away the conventionalities of performance, and building intimacy. Skilfully, she put the audience totally at ease. It was like you already knew and trusted her: there was almost a collective sigh of relief. And from that place, she was able to transport us away in space and time, to another location, in another era, knowing that we were safe in the hands of a consummate hostess.
The staging supports the hyper-real feel of the play. As we stepped into the theatre, it was like entering a sitting room – chairs and scatter cushions, nibbles on a tray – at the beginning of a house party. The physical staging was augmented by the imaginary staging created by Booth’s consummate story telling. You could see the layout of the flat, the posters on the walls, the shelves, the diaries under the stairs. An overhead projector and music playing on the record player lent a retro feeling, and also marked progressions in the performance. Props – old letters, pictures, post cards, even a hip bone – were passed around by the audience, adding another layer of authenticity to the reality of the experience. The audience became players in the story themselves – reading letters and diary extracts. And when it became clear that some members of the audience actually knew Annie – the key character in Booth’s story – for real, it was like the energetic loop between and reality closed.
One of the keys to the performance’s success was that it was very, very human in its breadth and variety. Although things never got too serious – there was a lot of lightness, humour, even a dildo – it looked full on and with compassion at addiction, love, and loss. The performance was also structured around ritual and respect for the dead. In short, it was like a séance with tequila, nibbles, tenderness and laughter.
I loved this show, recommend it highly, and will definitely be keeping an eye out for future productions from Kriya Arts. There’s one question about which I’m still curious: it’s such a Brighton-spirited show that I wonder how it would travel to other locations.
by TSOTF on 25th August 2016
Hip is an hour drifting through the Jungian collective unconsciousness; during the performance, Jolie Booth explores the serendipity of finding uncanny parallels with past lives. Based around found objects, Hip is a semi-autobiographical one woman show that starts by introducing us to a location caught between two timelines and personalities: the home of Anne Clarke during 60s bohemian Brighton, and a squat established by Jolie in 2002.
In homage to Aboriginal songlines which suggests location designates family, the audience is transported, in this extra live performance, to a cosy living room with cushions and cheese and pineapple nibbles. Acting as an aid to suspend disbelief, these props along with real love letters and transparencies of Annie’s eccentrically erotic art, are accompanied by Jolie’s soothing and passionate storytelling.
The title Hip comes from a Hip bone found amongst Annie’s possessions, eludes to a posthumous physical memory and is used to initiate a séance, in which the audience hold hands to connect with the presence of Annie. No longer spectators, they are now a tribe connected and enthralled by the memories of Jolie and Annie. Maffesoli (1996) describes tribes as a collective form of identity which is based on sentiment rather than rationality.
The hypnotic environment of light from an overhead projector used to display letters and poems from lovers and friends of Annie these are interwoven with vestiges from Jolie’s own life and there is an immediate and clear association. In later life Annie was consumed by alcoholism and died alone estranged from her family but Jolie suggests her funeral was well attended, if only by the patrons of her local drinking establishment. At the end of the play, Jolie explains that the hip bone isn’t human and is surely a memento from the Occult bookshop where she worked and frequented: just one of the glimpses into the community of 60s bohemian Brighton.
In respect for the dead, before we leave we join Jolie in a toast (with free tequila shots) to Annie’s life. This closes the circle of memory, love and loss. In a somnambulistic trance the audience leaves; Jolie has provided an authentic and human exploration of inherently unstable modern tribalism. (LO)
Hip is on at 16.30 at ZOO (Venue 124) ntil August 27th. Wheelchair Access, Level Access, Wheelchair Accessible Toilets, Relaxed Performance - https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/hip
Advisory Service for Squatters: http://www.squatter.org.uk/for-new-squatters/squatting-made-less-simple/
The lethality of loneliness - John Cacioppo at TEDxDesMoines: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0hxl03JoA0
One-woman show Hip charting the times of Anne Clarke, who helped set up Infinity Foods: http://www.theargus.co.uk/leisure/stage/14483157.One_woman_show_Hip_charting_the_times_of_Anne_Clarke__who_helped_set_up_Infinity_Foods/
Dissecting and Detecting Stories in Found Objects and Remnants: http://hyperallergic.com/223735/dissecting-and-detecting-stories-in-found-objects-and-remnants/
What are song lines?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVOG-RKTFIo