This year’s Donaufestival was a much more low-key experience for me than the stellar programme that was served up last year (which, lest we forget, included Current 93, Nurse With Wound, Throbbing Gristle, Will Oldham, KTL, Six Organs of Admittance, Larsen, the Boredoms and many others… has there ever been a better festival line-up, anywhere?). There was no way the organisers could have topped that this year, and in fairness they didn’t even try. This year’s festival concentrated heavily on theatre and performance art, with a strong showing of newly commissioned works. Inevitably, therefore, the musical side of the programme took something of a back seat.
In fact, the first show I saw this year was a performance piece, Satan Mozart Moratorium by Jean-Louis Costes and Paul Poet. And I rapidly wished I hadn’t bothered. Like the fool I am, I only ventured to see this effort because of an “article” in the crappy Vienna “newspaper” Heute which described its “scandalous” content in lascivious detail. You pillocks, I thought, it’s only you who think it’s a scandal, no-one else is bothered by it in the least. Anyway, I made the effort to go because I was hopeful of some testing actionist-style engagement from the performers. Boy, was I ever mistaken.
Before the performance began, the audience had to sign a disclaimer. I’m not sure exactly what I was signing, but I do know that it partly involved confirming that I understood I was about to witness a pornographic show and, more worryingly, that no liability would be assumed for any dry cleaning costs incurred as a result of watching the show. That done, we were escorted round the back of the building to an anonymous hall and kitted out with pacamacs, presumably to protect us from all the literal and metaphorical debris we were about to be confronted with.
I have to confess to the reviewer’s cardinal sin here – N. and I left well before the end. But we had seen enough to know when we had backed a loser. This was a loud, arch and orotund show in which the three actors bawled at the tops of their voices in between prancing mostly naked around the performance space, twisting themselves into contortions, throwing grapes at each other and capering pointlessly among the seated and cowering audience. The narrator at one point exhorted us to “f*** your children”, an unnecessarily antagonistic statement even without the knowledge of the horror of Amstetten which emerged the following day. But you didn’t need to be a parent to find this piece tiresomely and tediously one-dimensional. Like many of the audience, we voted with our feet and left early. One of the crew members filmed our departure, probably thinking to himself “ha, another couple of wimps who can’t cope with this fearlessly confrontational, transgressive piece.” But that wasn’t why we left at all. We left because we were bored rigid and we knew we would have a better time at the bar.