Schlock! (2014-2016)

In the grand tradition of literary terrorism, Hannah rips up her copy of Fifty Shades of Grey. Surrounded by the crumpled pages she attempts to put the female body back together, rewiring the defunct language of erotica to investigate final years of Kathy Acker – ‘high priestess of punk’. A journey through texts and voices pregnant with pain and pleasure, mothers and babies, domination and submission. In a performance as strange as it is beautiful, we discover there are no safe words.

Schlock! splices Acker and the Shades trilogy in a way that feels true to Acker’s slash-and-steal techniques, characteristic of Hannah’s chippy-chop playfulness and linguistic interrogation, attentive to the underlying politics of cheap-thrill erotica and thrillingly promiscuous in its stage languages. The written word covers the floor in pages and pages of typescript torn from novels; Hannah chews on them and spits them out, snatches sentences from Acker, loops her voice, and – oh so beautiful – speaks emphatically in British sign language, merging text and body, body becoming text. Amid the sex and the sensual is also the intimacy and fury of mother and child, the nakedness, love, anger, resentment, the complex interplay of dominance and submission. It was a few weeks later that I caught myself recognising that if what I really wanted from my children was unconditional love and near-total obedience, I should do them and me a favour and get a dog. – Maddy Costa

A note on accessibility

Schlock! was created for both hearing and d/Deaf audiences, and incorporates British Sign Language. Hannah was supported by Daryl Jackson (Dazzy Jacko), an expert on signed theatre who has advised companies and artists including Graeae and Caroline Parker.

Further reading

About Schlock: Sex and Subversion on the Stage
Interview: Hannah Silva sifts through the schlock of language

Lunar Poetry Podcast – interview

Credits

Written & performed by Hannah Silva. Collaborators: Rachel Mars, David Lane & Daryl Jackson (BSL translation). Produced by Penned in the Margins. Commissioned by The Poetry Trust. Development supported by Birmingham Repertory Theatre Foundry and mac birmingham. Supported using public funding by Arts Council England.

Schlock! images by Field & McGlynn

Reviews and reactions

REVIEWS

★★★★ This dense, complex, intelligent hour…celebrates the slipperiness of words. LYN GARDNER, THE GUARDIAN

Schlock! is a whip-smart but irresistibly seductive tour de force from the always astonishing Hannah Silva: a high-risk entanglement of limbs and lines, a restless toss-and-turn
of tongue meeting text in the heat of strangeness and the dark heart of desire. CHRIS GOODE

Weird and unsettling … authentic and deeply considered. MIRIAM GILLINSON, EXEUNT MAGAZINE

A remarkable piece, richly suggestive, enveloping and sensual but also smart and edgy enough to leave the odd paper cut! MADDY COSTA

Rendered through spoken word, vocal loops, articulation techniques, off-kilter screened subtitles, and sections performed entirely in British Sign Language, Schlock! is a captivating and disconcerting experience. NARC. MAGAZINE

Performance history

Schlock! was commissioned for Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, where it premiered in a Saturday afternoon slot to an audience of 250+ in the Britten Studio at Snape Maltings. A risk-taking piece of programming for a major poetry festival, Schlock! left audiences stunned, energised and, in the post-show discussion, deep in debate about sex, power, contemporary feminism, and the role of theatre to unsettle conventions.

Bookings

Schlock! is available for bookings. Please contact Tom Chivers at Penned in the Margins for tour booking enquiries and further information: info@pennedinthemargins.co.uk