The new show from experimental theatre provocateurs In Bed with My Brother climaxes with a scene in which performers Kat Cory and Dora Lynn – who are standing naked in the dark – graphically fantasise about murdering and dismembering Amazon boss Jeff Bezos. With a longer run, you have to think there’s a solid chance this would lead to some sort of tabloid scandal: the Barbican is, after all, one of London’s highest-profile arts institutions. Still, given it took The Sun almost a month to kick off over a ‘woke’ Globe production of ‘Romeo & Juliet’ this summer, I suspect ‘PRIME_TIME’ will fly under the radar – no doubt a relief to Barbican bosses. But anyway, content warning: contains a lengthy fantasy about the murder of the world’s richest man. And also an Alexa making fart sounds.
‘PRIME_TIME’ is absolutely not a slick, self-righteous takedown of Amazon, full of facts and figures about the all-pervasive corporation and its smug boss. In fact, if you don’t know who Jeff Bezos is, the show hardly fills you in: topless and wearing blonde wigs (Amazons?), Cory and Lynn stalk the stage spitting angrily about Bezos’s phallic Blue Origin rocket and darkly speculating about why it’s impossible to find his infamous leaked 2019 dick pic on the web anymore. They seem genuinely furious about the fact that he’s bald. They try to bait an Alexa, which misunderstands almost everything they say, and breaks virtual wind at them. Late on, a reference to Amazon workers having to piss into bottles is probably unfathomable if you don’t already know what they’re talking about.
But that’s kind of the magic of ‘PRIME_TIME’: almost everybody in the Western world is on some level infuriated with Jeff Bezos, and in a sense all In Bed with My Brother are doing is pushing this into the realm of art via entertaining absurdity and stomach-churning bile. If it was just some anonymous billionaire it wouldn’t have the same impact. As it is the show works by gnawing at our justifiable discontent and darkest fantasies, then cheerily going far too far with them.
And you can dance to it! Earplugs are offered at the start for a show poundingly soundtracked by the glorious music of the late electronic musician and producer SOPHIE. Despite the venom, there is a playful exuberance to much of the show, a fascinating push/pull balance of aggression and ecstasy, righteous fury and dumbass titting around.
It is not un-exasperating, and I suppose in some ways the most exasperating element is the fact its ferocious, almost pathological swagger is based on a lot of well-worn live art tropes – nudity, wigs, loud music, bathos, mime. Is their willingness to outrage really matched by originality? Is their refusal to take a curtain call not just a bit obnoxious?
Ultimately, though, In Bed with My Brother are punk as fuck: you can pick holes in the Sex Pistols by saying they were basically just pub rock with attitude, but the attitude was 99 percent of the point.
Still, I wasn’t totally sure how I felt about ‘PRIME_TIME’ until near the end, when in the aftermath of Bezos’s murder, Lynn delivers a passionate, utopian speech about how his killing saved the planet and made it a better place for women of future generations. Obviously, it’s absurd, perhaps bitterly so, but it’s a moment of almost transcendent prettiness amongst the horror and silliness, a sign that there’s more to this than the desire to outrage. Whether they crash and burn or achieve legendary status, In Bed with My Brother have here turned their misanthropy into something special.