Text: Wayne Burrows
Photography: Julian Hughes


It’s a countdown from the moment you walk through the doors of Embrace Arts in Leicester. You’d imagine that a full twelve hour performance schedule, running from 11am until 11pm non-stop throughout the building, would offer a leisurely experience, perhaps even one that would have its ebbs and flows, its frantic moments and longeurs. But that’s not the case, exactly, and the reason is closely connected to the first thing you see when you walk into the Embrace Arts cafe: a woman on a treadmill trudging ever forwards while going nowhere, reading a seemingly endless list of apologies and repentances from an autocue while running, walking and (at certain points) almost collapsing against a clock that counts relentlessly down through the twelve hours of the performance.

The piece becomes a kind of background to everything else that happens during Hatch: Twelve, every other performance slightly intersected with GETINTHEBACKOFTHEVAN’s chanted confessions: “I’m sorry I fucked your best friend while you were in hospital”, “I’m sorry I fancied your sister more than you”, “I’m sorry I stole the money from your sock drawer”, “I’m sorry I liked lying”, “I’m sorry I missed Alan Bennett on Radio Four earlier…”. The apologies are collected online, though how authentic they are, or how heartfelt the regret implied by those forwarding them to the company might be, is never clear. Some seem more boastful than sorry, as though an apology is also a way of flaunting something you’ve got away with, but others seem grounded in a genuine urge to repent.

Through the long day, as the hours tick down and the mountain of regrets grows ever higher, Weigh Me Down takes on the mantle of a ritual purgation, the solo performer taking onto her body, which must have trained hard to even consider doing this, all the sins of the world and the audience watching her, that we might all be purified by her action. It’s no accident that water bottles line up beside the treadmill in increasing numbers as the day progresses. I was reminded – in the combination of physical endurance and oblique allusion to some pre-modern ritual of communal purification – of Sean Burn’s cracking up, presented in another room at Hatch: Scratch, a platform held at the same venue earlier in the year.

As I move between the various performances elsewhere in the building and the day goes on, the TV screen’s autocue rolls through its endless list of sins, misdemeanours and missed opportunities, each one chanted in time with her step by the sole performer. All the while, a clock displays how many hours, minutes and seconds remain. By the time the final minutes count down to 11pm, the pace that had long since dropped to a dour trudge dramatically picks up, as though the sudden sighting of an end-point grants a fresh wave of energy. A crowd gathers round, the final clutch of sins are shouted into the air and – as the clock hits a neat line of zeroes – a cheer worthy of an Olympic marathon runner breaking a ribbon goes up.


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