Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Small Metal Subjects

Saturday's show was Small Metal Objects and lordy mamma, it's a humdinger. In fact, it's already clambered its merry way into my top-whatever list for 2005, and looks set to stay there. What was so good about it? Well, the main thing was the setting: the audience sits on a raked bank of seating at one end of the Flinders St Station concourse, and looks out across the expanse of humanity wandering past. In turn, that same expanse of humanity is looking right back. And somewhere out there are the actors, wearing mics which are piped through a set of headphones each audience member wears, along with some very neato original music. The awesomeliness of this cannot be understated.

When we sit down, the music being shunted through our headsets is the theme from Shaft, which was kind of disconcerting. No explanation offered, but none really required I suppose.

And it took about two minutes to become engrossed in the people walking past. So I decided not to review the show, but to review the general public as put on stage during the performance. There were literally hundreds, but here are the ones that stood out to me.

OLD MAN IN OVERSIZED COWBOY HAT: You walk with unerring confidence, your oversized cowboy hat perched atop your head like a sundial. That thing is massive, man, and yet you amble at a lackadaisical pace that speak volumes. Still, still, I know nothing about you. Except this: you are comfortable in your skin, amiable in your demeanour, and uninterested in the 60 or so viewers staring at your passing. Respect.

EXHIBITIONIST BOGANS IN SUITS: Why is it that you feel we are here for your own enjoyment? We are trapped, it's true, and will not move. But we're not here for you. It should be plainly obvious that we're here for a reason which extends beyond you. Nonetheless, we accept and appreciate your attempt to entertain us with your dancing, your prancing, your maxing and relaxing, because you are a young white male, and feel that the world has been created in order to provide you an audience. Dance away, white boy, and we will laugh nervously at you, though not always with you.

INTERVENTIONIST TEEN: As one actor seeks out another, he asks strangers if they are 'Gary'. They are not, of course, 'Gary', although they might be Gary (or Garry). But you, cheeky fella, answer yes, I''m Gary (or Garry) and therefore exhibit a willingness to enter the drama. Have you seen us watching? It doesn't appear that you have. You're just ready to participate in the drama called 'life' (see: Fiction). Onya for it.

ADDLED-LOOKING GUITAR MAN: You wander across the playing space to speak to those in the front row. Something is happening behind you, something people have paid to see, but you are oblivious to this. You seem to want money. You seem to have had things bad, a life of difficulty etched into your face. You seem to want some money to get through the night, but you are given a flyer instead. You return, later, and give the flyer back to your correspondent. No money exchanges hands.

GOBSMACKED YOUNG GIRL: You are COMPLETELY FREAKED OUT by this show. You stop and look around, as if cameras are filming your disbelief. Are they? Who the hell knows. But you seem to wish you were there with a friend who could share your incredulity as you ponder the odd spectacle of nearly a hundred folk gazing across the concourse. You speak for all of us.

MAN IN MOTORISED WHEELCHAIR: You slide across the space, just chilling, and give us a cool nod.

AMUSED STATION PERSONNEL: You stand there, having seen it all before, yet having seen us approximately - never.

INTERESTED OLD WOMAN: Upon spying us, you become intensely interested. You wander over to the ushers and ask what is happening. They tell you. You nod and watch for some time, but lacking a headset you are unable to fully testify to the story unfolding. You exhibit some traits which suggest that you would be considered mentally disabled, but you also seem to understand the show in a way that eludes paying customers.

Back to Back, the company behind Small Metal Objects, is largely composed of actors considered to be intellectually disabled, but any prejudices this might raise are offensively wrong. This is one of the most powerful pieces of this year's Festival, and opens up its audience's eyes to the profound humanity of both its participants and the everyday commuters who make up the backdrop to this fascinating drama. See it. For the love of god, see it. These are objects worth the paying price.

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