Institute of Contemporary Arts, London
More commonly associated with the uncompromising fringes of electronic music, London-based singer and producer Klein extended her vision at the ICA with her 45 minute musical Care. Set in a foster home, the plot follows a group of young people who stumble across a fantasy world.
Following the celebrated release of last year’s Tommy EP – an avant-garde work released via Hyperdub that combines vocal loops with sonic muffles and atonal production, Klein’s score for Care is similarly disorientating. No stranger to religious music (her music often nods at childhood memories of gospel choirs and church services) Care rests on a soundtrack of glitching and disjunctive beats, mixed together with anything from gospel music, Disney films or Nigerian B-movies.
The effect is presumably meant to be confusing – at times, listening to Klein can feel like rewinding through a series of old family tapes. This off-kilter approach to music-making can feel freeing and fearless, but applied to a less-than-satisfying visual narrative, the magic breaks down.
Featuring a diverse cast of refreshingly young actors, Klein has previously discussed the significance of enlisting PoC for a fairytale narrative: “I wanted a diverse cast but also it was an excuse for me and my friends to play Disney princesses because what are the chances of us ever being cast in the lead role as a black girl or a Pakistani girl[?]”
But while the premise of Care is both inspiring and intriguing, the performance itself is let down by a poor script and what seems to be lack of practice. Awkward silences and messy choreography dominate the first half of the performance. Moments of live a cappella feel like an under-rehearsed school play and, at points, the actors look like they’re making it up as they go along.
The second part of the performance is equally perplexing. The children emerge through a portal where they find themselves transformed into princes and princesses. The foster home supervisors are also there, yet are unsurprised by the whole situation. Weirder so, Pocahontas-style tree men attack the children, only to disappear again after a shrill voice shouts from the sky something-or-other about being “nice” or “welcoming”. A side-plot with Klein’s character and her younger sister goes unresolved. And then, all of a sudden, it’s over.