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Ingrid Weisfelt, Colin Sneesby, Brian Lucas, corRUPTION Ingrid Weisfelt, Colin Sneesby, Brian Lucas, corRUPTION
photo Jeff Busby
The last few years have seen something of a resurgence in performances that could be described as offering a kind of apocalyptic interiority. Works like Chunky Move’s Tense Dave or the more current Singularity, Malthouse Theatre’s A View of Concrete and Eldorado, Vanessa Rowell’s Can’t Leave Tomorrow Alone and a number of productions by Red Stitch Actors Theatre and other companies, have all offered bleak and violent visions which employ insularity to amplify their effectiveness. There is no outside to these visions, no normal against which their horrors may be measured. Perhaps this mode of theatre, which last had its heyday in the late 80s and early 90s, can be seen as the postmodern response to psychoanalytic discourse: we’re not over our neuroses, but we’re over the idea that there’s something else beyond them.

Chamber Made Opera’s latest production, corRUPTION, is an excellent case in point. An impressionistic hyper-opera, it presents a series of images centred on a nameless woman who embarks on a destructive sequence of sexual encounters outside of the supposedly satisfying relationship she has with her equally nameless partner. The heroine, played simultaneously by Anna Margolis and Ingrid Weisfelt, is all we have to interpret this scenario: her self-sought corruption is never contrasted to any normative model of reality which might allow us to make some sense of the scenes we witness.

The grinding, dissonant score by composer and sometimes-DJ Sasha Stella offers an almost industrial, jarring soundscape, sometimes given depth through the incorporation of spoken word texts by Ania Walwicz. There are moments of more operatic singing by Margolis as "Her (vocalist)" but these are regularly subsumed to the more attention-grabbing horrors foregrounded onstage.

The piece begins with confusing scenes of jagged domesticity: “Her” is presented in a relationship with the robotic and passive “Him” (Inside), pitched as a model of contained repression by the bald and bespectacled Brian Lucas. Him is an alienated interlocutor to her sensuality, responding to her outstretched thigh with a childish wonder but mechanically bound by his soulless typewriter. These initial moments are at first jarring, since they seem to be the ‘real’ against which subsequent fantasies will be compared, but again offer no angle through which we might identify with the woman’s predicament. Instead, we are immediately tossed into the maelstrom of her subjectivity, no purchase at hand with which to anchor our response to the events on offer.

The ‘Him Out There’ (Colin Sneesby) whom the woman encounters outside of the safety of her relationship, is a grotesque, Pan-like beast, sometimes portrayed bearing a massive fluffy phallus and sometimes playing a more submissive role. She walks upon his buttocks in high heels, or fills a teapot with urine and pours it onto his thirsty face. It’s nasty stuff, and doesn’t get any lighter. By the end, after a lengthy and fascinating section in which He (Inside) comes to confront his own reactions to her infidelity (or is it a projection of her guilt?), we’re given a closing scene in which she is crucified on an upright table, blood pouring from her mouth and vagina, her former partner prostrate at her feet and the demon-god lover flinging something faeces-like over the lot of them. It could have been lentils. It made no difference. The audience is so thoroughly disconnected from the interior life of Her that by this point understanding is nigh impossible.

Ultimately, corRUPTION both succeeds and fails as a result of its intense insularity. Creatively, Chamber Made has produced a work which regenerates the rich and vital life of intensely subjective sensuous experience, but in doing so its audience must necessarily be denied complete access to or identification with that experience. Despite its best efforts, we’re never afforded understanding of its central character’s interiority, since to do so would be to violate the very subjectivity we are supposed to be witnessing. All we can do is spy glimpses through the curtain veiling an impossibly complex desire, but those glimpses are enough to have any audience member pulling their own curtains closed once the show is over.

Chamber Made Opera, corRUPTION, directors Douglas Horton, Michelle Heaven, music Sasha Stella, text Ania Walwicz, performers Brian Lucas, Anna Margolis, Colin Sneesby, Ingrid Weisfelt, choreography Michelle Heaven and ensemble, design: Philip Rolfe, lighting Paul Jackson; Chunky Move Studio, May 13-28

RealTime issue #73 June-July 2006 pg. 37

© John Bailey; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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