Donald Urquhart (b. 1963) gained increasing prominence in the 1990s for his camp drag performance night, The Beautiful Bend, at Central Station, London. As a part of a tradition of 1980s club performance alongside luminaries such as Leigh Bowery, Urquhart’s dark and high camp performances incorporated a number of friends and acquaintances as performers, alongside his co-host Sheila Tequila. For each club night, Urquhart would create photocopied black and white posters to be pasted around the venue, depicting cartoonish characterisations of camp figures, representations of queer icons, literary personalities and fictional characters from various sources including television, stage and film. Urquhart’s work has gained increasing prominence in the UK and internationally in recent years. The artist has recently had solo exhibitions at Jack Hanley, San Francisco (2008); Maureen Paley, London (2007), White Columns, New York (2007) and Herald St, London (2006). Previous performances include The House of Tears, Art Perform/ Art Basel Miami Beach (2007) and Noir Noel, The Horse Hospital/Artangel (2003).
PLAGUES was co-commission for Studio Voltaire, London and Transmission Gallery, Glasgow by artist Donald Urquhart. The piece featured a group of actors performing a live “radio play” with costume changes, sound effects and songs.
Urquhart has been presenting dramatic productions both live and on radio since 1993. PLAGUES took the form of a live fictional “radio play” performed by six actors, seated with microphones as if broadcasting on live radio. With conventional radio sound effects (coconuts, trays of gravel, etc.,) and costume changes onstage behind a specially designed screen, PLAGUES aimed to blur the boundary between theatre, cabaret, radio and performance. The performance concerned various types of plagues (plagues of the mind, infestations, curses and invasions), all delivered in camp comic style. As usual, Urquhart’s melodramatic and tragicomic satire was tinged with vitriol and black humour, which took us through this three-act drama. Before the interval Urquhart screened his film L’Entr’acte (2006), which was set ‘backstage’ between acts one and two of a play. The film featured some of the actors who performed in PLAGUES, suggesting real backstage drama. For PLAGUES the artist designed a dramatic stage set, which included his drawings that Urquhart has always used to transform the performance space. In keeping with the artist’s history as a club host, PLAGUES incorporated the audience, by concluding with an evening of song and dance.
PLAGUES was a Studio Voltaire (London) and Transmission Gallery (Glasgow) co-commission. Supported by The Elephant Trust.
Donald Urquhart, PLAGUES, 2008. Performance, Saturday May 10 2008, Studio Voltaire, London. Courtesy of the artist and Studio Voltaire, London.