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Year of the Horse

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
4 stars
Harry Horse was without doubt the most savage political cartoonist of his era. The untimely and controversial death at the start 2007 of the artist formerly known as Richard Horne has made his increasingly angry back catalogue the stuff of legend. The premise of Tam Dean Burn’s hour-long homage is simple. Present each of Horse’s fifty two cartoons which appeared in the Sunday Herald throughout 2006 as a rolling slide show, with Burn himself mouthing the accompanying texts penned by Horse, and let them stand unadorned as the most visceral documents of modern times.

The result, underscored by the insistent electronic throb of Keith McIvor’s sound collage, is an intensely powerful piece of polemic and poetry that doesn’t just shove its targets around like much satire. Rather, it lacerates Blair, Bush, Brown and co with a mixture of increasingly personalised venom married to classical and pop cultural allusions born at punk’s crucible. Dressed in a white hoodie that bleaches into camouflage when the images project onto him, Burn becomes a Zelig-like chorus declaiming on the atrocities depicted, be they the bombing of Iraq or the way governments become the pushers of prescriptive drugs.

In delivery it’s as simple as it is relentless, and one can only speculate what Horse’s response to the recent outrages in Gaza might have been, though one suspects they would be in keeping with Burn’s own. It was Burn, after all, who led a moral boycott of the BBC after its blanket refusal to air an appeal for aid in the region. In stands like these, and in ad-hoc works such as Year of the Horse, Burn is rapidly becoming a very necessary conscience of the nation.

The Herald, February 23rd 2009

ends

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