Thursday, 16 March 2006

From a Distance by Version 1.0, March 16, 2006

From a Distance by Version 1.0
 North Melbourne Town Hall, March 15 to 26, 2006
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on March 16, 2006

From a Distance by Sydney company, Version 1.0, has all the hallmarks of a devised production, many of which are effective and successful. However, the eclectic and sometimes scattered nature of a devised performance can interfere with the delivery of its core message.

Because there are so many voices, ideas and references focussed on the issue of what it means to be “un-Australian”, we witness a diffused series of vignettes that, although entertainingly presented, do not to make a strong or cohesive statement.

This is not to say that there are no moments of resonance, coherence or of theatrical interest. The production is engaging and the seven performers create a contemporary work with a movement base and a non-linear structure.

It does, however, look and feel a little dated, like a devised show from the 1980s.

The catalyst for the piece is the incident in the rowing final at the Athens Olympics during which Sally Rogers stopped rowing and collapsed in the boat prompting her team mates to threaten to throw her overboard.

The ensuing media feeding frenzy raises issues of being “un-Australian”. Who knows whether it was the team’s response or Rogers’ failure to complete the race that attracted this description and what, indeed, constitutes being “un-Australian”?

Version 1.0 incorporates verbal and visual extracts from the press about the rowing fiasco. We see the rowers’ uncomfortable press conference, a letter is read suggesting that the topic is in bad taste and we see projected images of news articles about other “un-Australian” events such as the treatment of refugees.

Also appearing on stage are activities that are considered unashamedly “Australian”: cooking on an electric barbecue, eating sausages in a roll with sauce, sipping beer or wine and ironing clothes. Are our  lives so banal?

Although sport is not portrayed directly on stage, repeated movement sequences make oblique reference to sports training and a woman works out on a rowing machine only to be repeatedly pushed off by a colleague. Dialogue from news articles and the press conference are reiterated.

The performers are capable and the show has amusing moments that become more threatening towards the final scenes.

Unlike the more ambitious Austral/Asian Post-Cartoon: Sport Edition by NYID in 1997, From a Distance is not a visceral, edgy and dangerous view of sports nor of the danger of prejudice and competition.

By Kate Herbert

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