Avant-garde Scottish artist Bill Drummond, best known for his work with 1980s electronic outfit The KLF, brought his new documentary film Best Before Death to Stonehaven Town Hall recently. Directed by Paul Duane, it documents two years of the 12-year World Tour, which he intends to be his final project. Beginning in Kolkata, India, then moving on to Memphis, Tennessee, Drummond spends his time in these areas building beds, making soup and baking cakes, among other seemingly mundane tasks – to mixed reactions from those he meets on his travels. Apart from the film crew, Drummond is accompanied on this journey by Tracy Moberly, and towards the end we are shown his efforts to bring the story to the stage, with Tam Dean Burn playing Drummond and Moberly being portrayed by Charlie Sellers.
This screening of the film opened with a special monologue written by Drummond but performed by Tam Dean Burn – who makes his appearance wearing Drummond’s clothes, while Drummond himself reclines onstage next to him in his underclothes. This becomes something of a recurring theme in both the opening and closing speeches, as Burn, formerly known from River City and Taggart among many other roles, is mainly performing as Drummond. This does not stop him from making humorous asides as himself, though, usually when Drummond is criticising other actors. The ending speech is similarly bizarre: as well as the clothes swaps, there also features a large black and white canvas with the words ‘WHITE SAVIOUR COMPLEX’ painted on in a large font. Passages from his books Man Shines Shoes and Man Makes Bed are also read out by Burn.
The film is a humorous and fascinating take on Drummond’s intended final tour as we watch how he interacts with his surroundings and those who live in them. He also gets to learn more about the cultures of the areas he visits and even encourages some local musicians to perform some of his former band’s songs. It proves to be an interesting study of white saviour complex, the reality of growing older, and the subjectivity of art.