Tricks and Treats by Mary Kate Connolly

SPILL 2009 Launch

Spirit Level Bar, Royal Festival Hall


I could use any number of hyper-superlatives and super-hyperboles to begin this blog post. Corks were popping, champagne flowing, shops being talked…but I won’t. The salient point, the crux of the matter is that SPILL is here. The gentle trickle that began on April Fool’s night shall doubtless soon become an ooze, a gush, and a cascade.



If I were to judge this festival by its launch…I’d posit it will be visually arresting, quirkily fun, and peppered with delightfully brain-teasing contradictions. Discussing abortive protest attempts and the fact that anarchists have frankly lost their mettle (most, it seems, are trying to hold down a job in the face of encroaching economic ruin), we swilled champagne in the Royal Festival Hall, cheered on a beheading, and dined on elegant meringues. ‘Champagne socialist’, moi?


Agency, power, and the consequences of excess seem to snake through much of SPILL 2009’s programming, but I’m not sure I entirely welcomed the hefty portion of audience agency served up alongside the launch party canap├ęs, in Marisa Carnesky’s mock beheadings. I confess I spent the duration queasily wondering just what it might look like if indeed Carnesky’s trickery did go awry, and her unwitting audience victim did in fact lose his head in that all too convincing guillotine, whilst we yapped and bayed merrily for his blood….


Thus framed however, by the economic quagmire in which we all find ourselves, with protestors marching not two miles across the river, it made for a meaty (well, in fact, thankfully only a cucumber was sacrificed), and illustrative exercise on the nature of apportioning blame, and the power of a mob.



I wonder what fates Dante or indeed Castellucci might dish out to the perpetrators of excess who will populate the murky recesses of Shunt vaults this Easter Sunday? From the glittering stage lights of the Barbican to Shunt’s claustrophobic cavern and the open air of Soho Square, it seems that Spill will seep, and run in rivulets of action, enactment, consequence, choice, freedom, and desire…..


Let the games begin.


Mary Kate Connolly


Mary Kate is a freelance writer on performance and live art, based in London.


You can view footage of the launch here with SPILL TV

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