|Paula Lay, Reverb (1)|
photo Mila Robles
The most interesting works this year were all trying to make us re-read space: re-imagining the city on the one hand, theatrical space on the other. The former were collected in the Mapping Room, presented by Head Quarters, a freshly inaugurated independent artspace, an increasingly rarity in the inner city ravaged by gentrification. Among them, people’s walking tours (of anything from graffiti to op-shops) intersected with site-specific performances. Martin del Amo and Brooke Stamp’s Reverb (1) was a clickety, airy dance, one part oneiric pantomime, one part durational performance, travelling between Bendigo and a small park off Chapel Street. I witnessed the very last performance, the afternoon after the Fringe closing party—its audience a wobbly bunch of black-clad urbanites, colonising a vague suburban space at a vague Sunday time. It was liminal in every sense: shops closing, streets emptying; the rain had just stopped and the performance cancellation had just been revoked. Between a stop-starting fountain, a mesmerised baby boy followed Paula Lay’s solo through the park. Solos and duets appeared at odd angles, drawing invisible lines of attention, demanding the audience move, huddle in unexpected sitting formations, or stare at the sun, obliquely gleaming between rain and dusk. A rich lightness was sustained throughout the event, of which we all became part: a curious, question-posing intervention into normally unquestioned space.
The most singular experience of the festival, however, was bettybooke’s en route, a lesson in falling in love with the city. Equipped with headphones, the audience was given small change and sent to explore the marginal spaces of the CBD, one person at a time. Directions and small tasks arrived over the phone, through signs in space, or hidden in the soundtrack, which featured Sigur Ros, Rilke’s poetry and Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological musings. Walking down graffiti-coloured laneways, discovering speciality music shops, garage sales and messages from strangers, one was never sure what was constructed and what incidental to the experience. Yet, led by bettybooke’s invisible hand, one felt safe detouring, taking time, seeing the city anew. Soon enough, the modern-day flaneur was shouting on the street, writing on the walls and even running in front of a tram, holding hands with a complete stranger. Urbanistic art is not a rarity in Melbourne, a city in love with its own hidden spaces, but few performances manage to so completely tear through the bubble of reserve in which we spend most of our lives.
|Benedict Hardie, Yuri Wells|
photo Lachlan Woods
|Nature League, Tiger Two Times|
photo Cy Norman
photo Ponch Hawkes
The Suicide Show, in contrast, is a gutting cabaret. Director Martin White lets unrealised suicidal urges spill from song to song, exacerbated by relentlessly self-effacing humour. Five men progress through a series of vignettes combining masculine vulnerability and sociological sharpness, minute descriptions and wide oscillations of mood. A chorus line tries to dissuade a friend from suicide with clumsy, distressing ineptness, employing jokes, non-committal friendliness, anxious suggestions he “talk to someone”—someone else. Another drunkenly attempts to jump in front of a train, on a “fine Australian day.”
White exposes the deep-seated fear of the feminine in this grotesque take on mateship, layering both overt misogyny (a macabre placement of “Good Night Ladies” at the end of the performance) and emotional illiteracy, through attentive use of popular songs (from Nirvana to John Lennon). Although it is a testimony to Argy Bargy’s brilliance that one man’s psychotic rocking can blend seamlessly into swinging to music, or that a barbershop quartet number can reveal icy undertones of despair, The Suicide Show generates enormous anxiety as it approaches its end, feeling increasingly like an overture to a funeral. Yet the two shows, against all odds, mitigate the effect of each other. While the slow, impotent sadness of And No More magnifies the humour of The Suicide Show, it is retrospectively illuminated by the cabaret as comparatively both lighter and deeper.
Reverb (1), choreographers Martin del Amo, Brooke Stamp, Forecourt, Capital Theatre, Bendigo, Grattan Gardens, Prahran, Sept 24-Oct 11; en route, bettybooke, concept Julian Rickert, Melbourne CBD, Sept 26-Oct 11; Mapping Room, Head Quarters, Sept 25-Oct 4; Hayloft Project, Yuri Wells, writer, performer Benedict Hardie, co-deviser Anne-Louise Sarks, North Melbourne Town Hall, Sept 25-Oct 10; Tiger Two Times, Nature League in North Melbourne, The Warehouse, Sept 25-Oct 2; A Bit of Argy Bargy, & And No More Shall We Part, writer Tom Holloway, The Suicide Show, director Martin White, Black Box, The Arts Centre, Sept 30 -Oct 10; Melbourne Fringe Festival, Sept 23-Oct 11
RealTime issue #94 Dec-Jan 2009 pg. 8
© Jana Perkovic; for permission to reproduce apply to firstname.lastname@example.org