Thursday, October 19, 2006

Boarding Pass (Melb Arts Fest 06 pt 3)

I am a very good audience.

I am perfectly willing to sit motionless for hours at a time, watching something I'm only half enjoying. I will gladly sacrifice both armrests. I can uncross and recross my legs in absolute silence, or shift my body weight without a creak, and without rocking the seat of the poor fool in front of me. I try to sit as low in my chair as possible so as to maximise the sightlines of the people behind. I attempt to breathe inaudibly.

The Castellucci show I wrote about yesterday was performed, as far as I recall, in near silence. To be honest, I don't remember if there was music involved; I think there was some sound during the scene changes, but it was the kind of show you don't remember clearly. There was sound from the actions onstage, obviously. But there were also long, long periods where you could have heard the proverbial pin. I guess the reason I don't remember whether or not recorded sound was laid on top was due to that old John Cage dictum about the myth of silence, about how there's always sound, especially when you have an audience. Audiences make sound, and this is part of the performance, too, or at least the 'event' of which a performance is only one part. I love audiences; I loved it when a little boy behind me spoke up during a quiet bit in Warby's Monumental to tell his mother that he was hungry. Me too, kid!

But the chilled hush during the Castellucci piece was broken, for me, by a far more testing sound. At some indefinable point, the dude to my left began breathing loudly through his nose, and sounded sort of sinusy and blocked up, so I was watching the onstage proceedings with a soundtrack that sounded like a wheezing, desolate wind blowing across a craggy moor. Wheeeeeeeze. Pause. Wheeeeeeeeeeeze. Pause. Wheeeeeee- you get the picture.

And then a funny thing happened. The woman to my right picked up the beat, and began wheeeeeeezing in syncopation. Suddenly I was in the aural equivalent of a tennis match played by two lumbering giants with a bad case of the sniffles.




Oh well.

Not much room for quiet when last night's Voyage started up. Instead, the cataclysmic roar that Japan's dumb type do best, the kind that resonates at such thunderous and low frequencies that it feels as if every atom in your body is being shaken violently and you might just begin to disintegrate if it keeps up much longer.

How was the show? Well, hard to say. I think my +1 for the night put it best: afterwards, she said that during much of the performance, she was asking herself "do I like this or not?" And we both agreed that the question sort of became irrelevant after a while. It wasn't a show you liked, or cared about, or anything. It was a very similar experience to the one I had when I last saw the same group, about two years ago, I think. I vividly remember being struck by several moments in that show, but the rest of it is just a hazy, dream-like memory. Same thing last night. You emerge from the theatre rubbing your eyes, waking up and already feeling the experience starting to slip from your conscious mind into some dark crannies of your forgettory.

The group mix tech-heavy multimedia such as microscopic cameras, electronic soundscapes and carefully controlled lightshows and projections with contemporary movement: sometimes dance, but sometimes stretching the dance vocabulary to such an extent that the word doesn't really apply. The sequence of scenes presented had a few loose connecting themes, mainly to do with voyaging, air and space travel, and diasporic experience, but it was more often an impenetrable logic that structured the subject matter; often thematics seemed sidelined by the pure theatricality of the moment, an arm arced in a particular fashion reason enough for its own existence. Overall, even with the body-shaking score which sometimes erupted, the overall thing seemed carefully constructed in order to put you into a different state of attention, one where a small part of your brain was taking in the sights on offer and doing a little bit of meaning-making, while the other, less literal parts where sent of a voyage of their own, given licence to take flight and take you far away from a little seat in a large, darkened room. Coming back was a bit like stepping off a plane, the unfocused eyes and difficulty speaking and sense of soul-lag there as well. So, I wouldn't say that I liked the show, or that I'd necessarily want to recommend it. But I sure had a good trip, and some pretty vivid dreams when I finally went to sleep.

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