Wednesday, 4 February 1998
The Shed by Jason Cross, Feb 4, 1998
The Shed by Jason Cross
La Mama at the Courthouse until Feb 14, 1998
Reviewed by Kate Herbert around Feb 1, 1998
A man needs a shed! It provides the great back yard escape from family, responsibilities, workplace and domesticity. "The Shed", by Jason Cross, constructs a 4 X 4 metre garden shed on stage after 80 minutes.
Cross describes his 'new theatre' as arising from 'a single physical image rather than a character-driven narrative.' This concentration on object', rather than narrative is not a new process but can inspire innovative conceptual art.
Unfortunately, 'The Shed' suffers from an overload of ideas and a lack of coherence or cohesion. It is billed as "a performance exhibition" which barely excuses its lack of form, structure and limited content. It is, finally, a poor version of a dated idea
This is not to say it has no merit. The opening augured well with its wry eye on the supercilious language and pedantic directions of an artist's exhibition contract. Tom Consadine's laconic and lateral commentary provided some much needed humour as the piece became self-indulgent, taking itself too seriously.
The sound design (Roger Alsop) was interesting but the dynamic imbalance made voices inaudible or incomprehensible. Adrian Martin's projections provided some striking visual imagery.
The piece highlights the mechanics of process. We hear instructions from the exhibition contract. We observe the completion of the paving of the space as a suburban patio, the placement of spinifex grass and scattering of red sand according to plans.
The 'performer' is also an 'object', a prop in the space Tom Consadine is dressed, by Dario Vacirca, as a handyman with his overalls stapled to his shirt and tools propped in his limp hands.
Finally, the text meets the shed. Four backyard Village People 'play' power tools to 'Land of Hope and Glory': 'The opening of the Proms in the Outback' said an audient.
This was too late, too unclear, too limited in its exploration of the sound and the notion of tools. and didn't explore the machismo of men with tools. The shed is erected sloppily. If it is the main object, why not get it right?
The aimless dialogue and irrelevant rapping and political interpolations were messy. Abstraction can make magical or diabolical theatre.
My problem is not a lack of understanding of the style and intention of this piece but that it is so poorly executed. It is an exercise in tedium and pedantry. Much 70's-80's theatre experimented with boredom and real time elapsing. Some succeeded. The Shed does not.