Lisa Jeschke and Lucy Beynon make performance work in London and Munich. Past pieces include “David Cameron [a theatre of knife songs]” (2013, published with Shit Valley, 2015), “The Tragedy of Theresa May” (2016, published with Tipped Press, 2018) and “The Decline and Fall of the Home Office” (2018). They are working as academic assistant/freelance translator and immigration lawyer, respectively.
Read more about the project — https://syg.ma/@sygma/political-dimensions-of-cultural-praxis-and-knowledge-production
Текст на русском можно найти по ссылке — https://syg.ma/@sygma/soviet-liubvi
Politically and geographically speaking, over roughly the past decade, our performance work has operated under conditions of incessant Tory rule in the UK. This period of rule has established austerity in response to the financial crisis (esp. early 2010s, with David Cameron as Prime Minister) and an openly-proclaimed “hostile environment” against so-called foreigners (esp. mid-/late 2010s, with Theresa May as Prime Minister). Practically speaking, our work has been situated in a DIY poetry scene often based in university towns (Brighton, London, Cambridge, Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and others) and a London-based cultural-Marxist scene. In terms of the latter, the May Day Rooms and the No Money event series in London have provided especially meaningful collective frameworks, enabling a thinking-together of theory and practice, art and activism in the knowledge that every new law imposed by the Tories is also a cultural act. The shape of Boris Johnson’s face is a manifestation of art and culture. This fact has made it possible to think beyond a boring dichotomy: while a militant poetics is no substitute for demonstrations, rioting, collective action (as a bourgeois elevation of art would believe), it is also not irrelevant (as one-dimensional activist positions would believe). Culture, speech, our bodies, our genders are part of the symbolic, material, economic world. At the very least, we think, cultural work can be a humble servant of the revolution.
Our pieces do not, however, speak from an idealised revolutionary subject position. Often we are two white Frauke Petrys on stage, yet on occasion we are also two sad lovers, or, livestock. In our performances, in which we mainly speak, standing still on stage in joyfully, hyperbolically feminised outfits, then, we often enact an asymmetrical dialectics/death-match of “madam and maid”: David Cameron vs. a speechless dancer in our piece David Cameron [a theatre of knife songs] (2013); Ute (middle manager and Theresa May impersonator) vs. Volker (Ute’s horse, lover, and employee) in The Tragedy of Theresa May (2016); and (post-second World War British Tory imperialist and racist) Enoch Powell and Hamlet vs. a foreign applicant applying to stay in the country in The Decline and Fall of the Home Office (2018).
Like the work of poets Sean Bonney and Verity Spott , among others, these pieces often employed ad-hominem attacks against leading Tory politicians, on the one hand because we felt this: “[a]n individual, A, for instance, cannot be ‘your majesty’ to another individual, B, unless majesty in B’s eyes assumes the physical shape of A, and, moreover, changes facial features, hair and many other things, with every new ‘father of the people’” , and on the other hand in the attempt to engage as directly as possible with NOW.
As in the course of the late 2010s, however, the various fash-liberal heads of state have with increasing openness agitated to murder history (by means ranging from defunding the humanities as under Bolsonaro and Johnson to the fetishisation of a “return to normal” after the Corona measures), the beginnings of a piece printed here is an attempt to cut into NOW by moving away from it: by working on a foreign piece, Munich-based playwright Oskar Panizza’s The Council of Love (1894). It’s not really a revolutionary precursor that needs to be rescued, but a quite misogynist piece dealing with the oppressiveness of Catholicism and a syphilis pandemic in 1495: we want to deal with these differences.
As reprinted here, we performed the piece at No Money at Theatro Technis, a Greek-Cypriot art space in London, on 17/10/2019.
Lisa Jeschke (Munich) and Lucy Beynon (London), July 2020.
The Council of Love
This is actually just an advert.
For you to do work for us.
Unpaid, but for some really capital exposure.
What we want is for you to be our actors, please.
But not yet. In the future.
What it is is this: our next venture will maybe be this old problematic play called The Council of Love by a man called Oskar Panizza. There are 100+ roles.
So all we will do now, between the two of us, is tell you the plot, quite fast, in the hope that you are persuaded to do the acting work required for our success. Thank you.
The Council of Love! A Celestial Tragedy in Five Acts!
From 1894! By Oskar Panizza! Munich’s brain doctor! It’s set in the year syphilis came out — 1495.
There’s three angels sat on stage in heaven, bitching about god, and how you would have thought heaven would be fit for habitation but actually it’s slowly toppling through disrepair like a failing state in the global north
and two of these angels are mocking a littler, more recently deceased angel, because the more recently deceased angel was surprised that heaven was in such disrepair. It turns out the more recently deceased angel in fact died at the age of 13 after being sold for sex to the local school rector by her mother and on this occasion, this amounted to murder
she died of it
somehow I felt bad for the mum too though as i think it was a matter of desperately needing money for food for that daughter, but maybe i have whitewashed that mum too much.
Yes. And the other two angels are shocked by the death story of the recently deceased angel and lift their hands to their heads in fear and grief for the nation and they emit a shrill drawn out girl scream, as if wanting to let in to the outside world their inner agitation, and as they do this they move apart from one another and their bodies whistle through space as if they were two dreidels.
Then god comes in. And the girls get to work like harassed employees.
God is dying.
He’s sick, gross and old. It’s striking how frail he is given his position of power. There are so many employees running around now who (like the first three angels) are also all girls or genderless. And God is just making this noise over and over:
Äh! Äh! Äh! Äh!
Then a messenger comes in and reports to god that Naples has gotten sinful of late, there are no more class divisions and everyone is a beast. Especially the clergy. God is concerned that heaven is going to die of increasing underpopulation unless people clean up their act and he’s stumbling and raging around in the manner of an elderly man.
He’s saying ‘godamnit I hope they clean up their act because I’m too old to do more creating. I need this current creation to keep going as it is or that’s it. We’re done.’ So he calls a Celestial Council meeting with the virgin Mary (who is quite self-regarding) and also Jesus (who is wet as you’d expect), and at that council meeting god asks what to do about the sinful people and he has a strong personal preference for exterminating all Asians i.e. Neapolitans
because god thinks he’s the suffering minority elite here and he wants earth to be clean of fornicators.
Then heaven breaks and all the medical equipment is taken away for now. There was lots of luxury medical equipment on stage the whole time and other stuff too, because this is a high-budget luxury play with too many velvet hospital beds but only for god and his family
cut to Rome and the Borgia pope Rodrigo AKA Alexander VI! Many blond children blond family blond staff. A murder has happened with someone having drowned in the river. Alexander knows nothing; Rodrigo Borgia knows everything.
Because it’s Easter the pope and everyone around him just want to have fun so there’s lots of sexy entertainment for example naked prostitutes wrestling each other to win chestnuts.
Then cut and we see Satan who is the sole respectable intellectual figure in this play. He’s fallen on isolated times. A sad young man with accumulating intentions. But because of this human-Asian-sin problem, god calls him up for an audience with the council.
God is at a loss and tells Satan that they need something that will break human bodies. He wants something destructive — alluring — poisonous — cruel — that burns brains and veins –
But. Not their souls.
They need to be destroyed save their souls because god’s reign needs them to remain needy and capable of redemption.
Satan comes up with a plan, which he presents to god, Mary and Jesus: ‘god’ he says, ‘we should introduce an infection into the secretion at the moment of sexual union’. As in, all these corrupt fornicating people and cardinals and just everyone, they should all get ill from fluid exchange, sick from sex. That’s how you purge the bad. It goes down well with the Celestial Council and after agreeing payment it’s a deal.
Then Satan goes down to his basement and hashes out the details of the plan in a montage. He has another moment of being a bit sad because everyone thinks he’s bad just because he lives in a dirty basement, but then he cheers up when he thinks unlike all the Reese-Mogg-Bannons in heaven we don’t need any registers of ancestors! We don’t need birth rights! We’re the ones to make the future!
Then he dreams of communism for himself, including better ventilation for his basement and also a more stable staircase as his leg is mangled from his fall from heaven and he is worried about another fall.
Then he actually gets to work thinking about the plan. And his idea is that there will be poison and that poison will emanate from him.
However, unmediated, this poison will be too effective to be effective as there would be no time! You need time before death for the victim to spread it to the next victim
so he needs to channel it through organic, mediating matter — that is: he needs to make a woman’s body
and to make a woman’s body, he first needs a woman. He selects Salomé for this woman-production job because the other famous mythological women might have been bad enough for hell, but weren’t bad enough for this job. Or empty enough. It’s all quite woman-hating.
He tells Salomé she is gonna be the mother of future generations with an entirely different-coloured blood, neither blue nor red, and she’s up for it, and so Satan uses her to produce a very alluring vessel for the infection.
‘The great replacement’ is in action!
And then we’re back in school with Mary and a male schoolteacher teaching dead children up in heaven. And Mary realises in a brief moment of compassion the schoolteacher has been hungry for an eternity but has been too polite to say anything. But let’s not dwell on that one.
And then the new organic girl-child of Salomé and Satan appears in heaven. She’s extremely alluring to all. Satan says this: whenever someone touches her, they will go brittle and ill and will not even recognise their own arsehole in their face anymore and their joints will crumble and they will stare longingly into shop windows around christmas looking for a new set of organs on sale. And their noses will fall off and they will move to the countryside and change career paths and become sentimental and moral and enjoy watching politicians die in the sun.
And then they will gape their mouths wide and cry ‘why’ and die and then ‘their bodies will be waste, but their souls will be god’s’, Satan says, because at this point Satan is still only a petit-bourgeois slave subcontractor to god and this whole plan is still meant to serve god.
But Mary is shocked now and shows no sisterly solidarity with either Salomé or the organic girl — she says ‘what the hell I expected a monster but this is much worse!’ but Satan says ‘I did what you told me to, they remain needy and capable of redemption’
but Mary will have none of this and she says to Satan ‘OUT just take her away’ and Satan says ‘what about my payment’ and Mary says ‘fine fine you’ll get a new staircase ok? Go’. It seems Mary has let Satan out of his contract. He’s freed from the soul clause. No need to leave them capable of redemption!
So finally we’re near the end. There’s another papal church service down in Naples or somewhere. The audience is part woman, and bored and chatting over the service and the mini-police among them go “shhhhhhh” non-stop. It’s social carnage and it’s escalating. God knows.
Suddenly the new girl appears at the church door alluringly. It goes silent. Although the people are frightened, they’re also seduced and perhaps murderous. But the pope goes first. He approaches the girl, takes her hand, and like a gentleman leads her to the palace and contrary to the experience of all concerned, in that moment, he is in fact the victim of a beautiful soul-consuming bio-weaponry attack and it begins.
The throngs follow after, it’s the cardinals! And then the archbishops! And then the envoys! And then the pope’s nephews! And then the bishops! And then the monks! And Satan tells her: destroy the class order, top to bottom! Souls are property and property is God’s!
 See Sean Bonney, Letters Against the Firmament (London: Enitharmon: 2015) and Verity Spott, Gideon (London and Brighton: Barque, 2014).
 Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, vol. 1, trans. by Ben Fowkes (London: Penguin, 1990) p. 143.