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make art, drink, vomit

douglas leonard: room 328, brisbane


Robbie O'Brien, Room 328 Robbie O'Brien, Room 328
photo Morgan Roberts
MAKE ART. DRINK. VOMIT. THIS WAS THE PUBLICITY BY-LINE FOR THE SHOW WHICH AT FIRST SEEMED UNCOMPROMISING, EVEN UNINVITING. THE QUEENSLAND GOVERNMENT HAS DECREED LOCK-OUTS (OR LOCK-INS, DEPENDING ON WHERE YOU'RE STANDING) FOR CLUBS IN FORTITUDE VALLEY IN AN ATTEMPT TO CURB ALCOHOL-FUELLED STREET VIOLENCE IN THE WEE HOURS. ON A STRICTLY MICROSCOPIC, SOCIOLOGICAL LEVEL, ROOM 328 IMMERSED US IN A TACTILE, DIRECT TAKE FROM A MASCULINE PERSPECTIVE ON CLUBLAND (OR NEVERLAND, AS DIRECTOR DANIEL SANTANGELI EXPRESSES IT, REFERRING TO PETER PAN'S LOST BOYS).

These are Boys with No Sense of Limits, dedicated to the time-honoured prerogative of young males to live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse. Some of them, of course, fulfil their wish. The piece represents men's need to interpose violence in order to protect themselves from closeness and personal connections. On a deeper, more poetic level informing the aesthetic values of the production, the audience was being asked to contemplate the pain of these vulnerable young men as socially constructed, and ultimately to break the rules, men and women alike, of sex and gender. On entering the space each audience member was fitted with a string bracelet similar to those attached to a baby’s wrists to identify them. Each tenuous thread bore a boy's name. Similarly, later on, we were asked to wear identical, iconic James Dean masks for a re-enactment of the “chickie run” scene from the cult movie, Rebel without a Cause. I danced with a “boy” who proved to be a 'girl', a kind redhead who forgave my clumsiness for a while before moving on to dance with a “girl.” (But real men don't dance, do they?)

Erica Field, Room 328 Erica Field, Room 328
photo Morgan Roberts
Part dance theatre, part performance art, part installation, the ambient club atmosphere and Willmett's live sound mix wove together these levels of meaning for the spectator who was free to wander at will. Sometimes the action coalesced round set pieces: the coronation of a king with a cardboard crown; a performer being cling-wrapped to a pillar; the multiple deaths of River Phoenix. Sometimes the audience participated in actions designed to point up our shared humanity

In a poignant ending the mood shifted from all this masculine psychic and physical turbulence to one of pervasive quietude. A sense of peace emanated from the now liquid keyboard tones of Willmett's soundscape as the performers were winding down. This was a perfect analogue for wandering outside and greeting the dawn with the clear-eyed sense of purgation I'm sure most of us have experienced at one stage of our lives, after an orgy of too many drugs and too much alcohol. It struck the note of absolute, shared verisimilitude I had been searching for throughout the performance. The redhead with whom I'd danced removed the bracelet denoting my spurious masculine identity, freeing me to leave the building reborn, at the same time holding my hand and gaze in an intimate, naked exchange that was delicately touching. But it was still early. I wanted to be contaminated. I wanted a drink.

Room 328 is representative of a new, thoughtful generation of performance makers in Brisbane who are breaking new ground. Three years in the making, this was the first public viewing of a work presented by director Daniel Santangeli and producer Genevieve Trace who have pulled together an impressive line up of their peers including Expressions Dance Company's choreographer-in-development Liesal Zink, bass guitarist and keyboard player Mike Willmett from local Indie band My Fiction, and local interior designer Elise Terranova. Many of the Room 328 performers trained at SITI Company in New York, founded by Anne Bogart and Tadashi Suzuki. The sheer diversity of talent involved in this ensemble production delivered something pretty amazing.


Room 328, director Daniel Santangeli, designer Elise Terranova, choreographer, Liesal Zink, sound designer Mike Willmett, presenters Allies of Metro & Genevieve Trace; The Galleries, Metro Arts, July 6-10

RealTime issue #98 Aug-Sept 2010 pg. web

© Douglas Leonard; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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