Martin Creed's Words and Music

The artist's rambling thoughts and comic songs prove both fascinating and frustrating

★★★
theatre review | Read in About 2 minutes
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Martin Creed
Published 07 Aug 2017

Artist Martin Creed’s show defies easy categorisation. He shares some thoughts, from the problem with trousers to the inadequacies of language to explanations of his sculptures. He plays some songs: some illustrate his musings, some are aural non-sequiturs.

Words and Music is ambling, rambling, and shambling. With his wild hair and owlish glasses, Creed comes across like a semiotics professor giving a lecture after smoking too much skunk. He trips over his own feet, and given his "y’know"-peppered inarticulacy and mid-sentence swerves, you wonder if it might genuinely be unscripted. Presumably that’s the point, in a show about what we can and can’t communicate. Or a point, at least.

It can be banal, it can be profound; it can be funny, and it can be serious. It certainly outstays its welcome – there’s a steady trickle of walk-outs as he sails way past the hour-mark without a hint that he’s coming to any conclusions, in meaning or duration.

But Creed has a pretty unique view on the world, and it’s fascinating trying to share his headspace: his thoughts on the impossibility of understanding or effectively conveying feelings are entertainingly unpacked, for instance. He plays with language like it’s a toy: border control is a con, a bore. He doesn’t like borders, because they aim to be fixed, definite. Which makes them inhuman, inhumane. Anyway, trying to have borders is like “drawing lines in soup”. If the show is ‘about’ anything, I suppose it might be this: the impossibility of certainty. Nothing is definite. Least of all this interpretation.