Friday, November 04, 2005


It's always a pleasant surprise to be able to review two openings in one hit. That's the case with this week's Melbourne premieres of Tess de Quincey's Nerve 9 and Yumi Umiumare's dasShoku Hora! The shows are completely unrelated, technically, but share a common thread which can only be described as CRAZY BRAINMELTING MONSTER WOMAN!

Nerve 9 is really, really difficult. Academic. Theoretical. Abstract. And last night someone told me that a friend described it as one of the most boring shows she'd ever seen. I think that's a bit harsh (although, you know, each to their own). But it certainly wasn't a hot bucket of giggles. My plus-one confided to me afterwards that when it began, in near darkness with just a miniscule dab of light grazing what seemed to be someone's neck or back as pulsing, dark beats flooded the space, she "was seeing things you can't imagine." And when the light eventually spread to reveal the black-clad, awfully contorted form of de Quincey, she thought she was "seeing a monster!" This meant in all seriousness, from a grown adult.

Funny, since my reaction afterwards was something like waking from a nightmare (I don't mean that figuratively - as in "what a nightmare of a show"). I couldn't remember a lot of it, and some I didn't want to think about for some reason, and the hour I'd just sat through seemed completely disconnected from the bright world of reason once the lights had come up. I'd been lulled into a kind of trance-like sleep state by the performance, and during that time some scary stuff was happening which must have seeped into my brainstem. The show itself seemed inspired by notions of the abject body, the body we can't confront directly, with its awful interior and its gaping holes and uncontrollable bits and its inability to be rendered in speech. While de Quincey jerks around like a creepy doll from some Eastern Bloc experimental animation, the air is filled with the sound of heavily edited and visceral vocalisations (popping, breathing, groaning etc) and noises like unearthly insects cracking their knuckles and flexing their cartilage. Icky, entrancing and bewildering.


A different monster showed its face at the Malthouse last night when Yumi Umiumare uncovered an equally insane but far more engaging creation: dasShoku Hora! gives us a wretched old Japanese hag coming down from her mountain, all screams and writhing and birthing two shaggy men-freaks who proceed to rut and crawl and howl. Over the next hour the crone morphs into a freaky eroto-Hello Kitty character, a spray-tan karaoke ganguro girl, the faceless woman of Japanese folklore and a whole lot more I can't even begin to understand. There's a lot of horror, but it's all done in a certain style I last saw in Moira Finucane's Gotharama (Finucane is dramaturg on Hora!) whereby the monstrous is portrayed with such glee and sheer exuberance that you can't help being infected despite the yuckiness being offered up to you. It's very physical, often incomprehensible but more fun than a sponge cake covered in red blood and lollies being shoved down your gullet (to take an image from the show). Also, it was great to see Yumi and cohorts writhing all over people in the front row, shoving their crotch in the face of Malthouse staff, dry humping people who'd worked on the production and interrogating a Japanese woman over her fashion sense. Crazy crazy nights.

After Nerve 9 it was a weirdly fruity white wine (again, not metaphorical usage of 'fruity'), some cheesy/curry/something balls, veg spring rolls, veg sushi, veg rice paper rolls - my goodness! Very fine. After dasShoku Hora! it was time for me to rush home to bed. But I'm sure a good time was had by all.

I'm off to see Theatre @ Risk's The Woman Before tonight, and since it concerns an obsessive Fatal Attraction-type scenario, I'm guessing that this week's theme will continue unabated.

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