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Karen Quigley

‘Hardworking people, people who work hardworking people’: Listening to repetition in Nic Green’s Cock and Bull.
In 2015, Nic Green, Rosana Cade and Laura Bradshaw created Cock and Bull, a piece of feminist political performance for the Arches performance space in Glasgow, to be performed on 6 May, the night before the UK general election of that year. Studying Conservative campaign speeches and political slogans, and focusing on the party’s patronising claim to stand for ‘hardworking people’ (introduced visually and vocally at the 2013 Conservative party conference, mostly by male politicians), Cock and Bull works with tiny fragments and splinters of political catchphrases and mottos. These are repeated by the three performers to vocal (and physical) exhaustion, spun out into linguistic meaninglessness, and used as the basis of intricate, overlapping voice rhythms and durational choreography. ‘Dido’s Lament’ from Henry Purcell’s late seventeenth century opera Dido and Aeneas, and Frank Zappa’s 1979 song Bobby Brown (Goes Down) provide additional points of connection to a piece deeply concerned with slogan-speech and over-simplification in political contexts.
This paper seeks to consider what is revealed in listening to repetition. Such listening can be associated with learning, transcription, fandom, boredom or error, and figuratively in English with something that is damaged or worn out (a broken record, ad nauseam, that old chestnut). Green, Cade and Bradshaw’s use of aural repetition in Cock and Bull simultaneously embraces and exceeds easy connotations of frustration at listening to repetition of unchanging news stories and re-hashed political slogans. Repetition in this performance opens up a space of engagement and community, generating what we could think of as a ‘listening with’ as well as a ‘listening to’. The performers’ multiple approaches to embodiment of sonic repetition and vocal duration engender intersubjectivities in audience experience, creating opportunities for shift and change. Interweaving my own embodied experience of Cock and Bull as a spectator with my practice-research explorations of the music and sound in the performance, I explore how listening to repetition together at the theatre becomes a political act.
Karen Quigley
is Lecturer in Theatre at the University of York, UK. Her research on a range of subjects including unstageable stage directions, site-specific performance pedagogy and solo spectatorship has been published in European Drama and Performance StudiesJournal of Contemporary Drama in English and Theatre, Dance and Performance Training. Her first monograph, Performing the Unstageable: Success, Imagination, Failure is forthcoming from Bloomsbury in late 2019.