It was Friday night and a large crowd of people had gathered outside Twenty Eight barber’s shop in Hockley. The weekend had just begun and all around us revellers were strolling past, looking for a pub or bar to visit and occasionally stopping to see what was going on.
We were there to watch a show by performance artist Jamie Lewis Hadley called Blood on the Streets. Standing in the window at Twenty Eight, and with a pair of speakers to ensure that he could be heard, Jamie presented a lecture on the beliefs around blood letting through the ages. The window, which was put to good use as a blackboard during the show, also made the metaphorical ‘fourth wall’ of theatre something quite tangible, creating a barrier between the audience. It was almost as if the performer was encased in a glass box like the subject of a science experiment.
During the show we learned some of the facts behind blood letting in the past, such as why people would rather go to a barber’s shop than a doctor (it was cheaper) and how the first blood transfusion was administered. It all culminated in Dr Belinda Fenty taking a pint of blood from Jamie as he continued to deliver his lecture, despite seeming to be slightly uncomfortable at one point. Thanks to the glass window it was possible to see how the various audience reactions, which ranged from mild shock to gruesome fascination and reminded me on how surgical procedures were once seen as a form of entertainment. As a regular blood donor, however, I wasn’t particularly troubled by it – in fact it made me think how sanitised the process now is.
Ultimately, what made this performance so engaging was Jamie’s style. He managed to deliver it as a lecture but he also had the style of a street performer – which is perhaps why he attracted such a large crowd, many of whom were simply intrigued by what was going on.
Blood on the Streets was hosted in Nottingham by Little Wolf Parade. Photo reproduced with kind permission from Lamar Francois.