Monday, 5 June 2017

Book of Exodus Part 1, June 4, 2017 ***

Co-created by Adena Jacobs & Aaron Orzech
Presented by Theatre Works & Fraught Outfit 
Theatre Works, until June 18, 2017 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert  on June 4, 2017
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts Online on Mon June 5, 2017 & later in print. KH 

 Sol Feldman
The only actors in Book of Exodus Part 1 are two children (Sol Feldman, Tarana Verma) who are charming and relaxed as they perform a series of episodes that have a tenuous relationship to Exodus, the second book of the Old Testament.

The actual book of Exodus makes a brief but welcome appearance when one child reads a biblical excerpt about the Israelites in Egypt being spared the death of their first-borns by obeying God’s instructions to Moses that they paint lamb’s blood on their doors, so that God will pass over their homes.

Any clear connection to Exodus starts and ends there. The production, co-created by Adena Jacobs and Aaron Orzech and directed by Jacobs, is cryptic, and any story or message it hopes to communicate remains opaque.

It has some compelling visuals with an inventive, white-on-white set design (Kate Davis) that sees the stage floor piled with fragments of Styrofoam and a stark, white rear wall on which are projected live and recorded video of the children at play.

The two children initially emerge by scrambling their way out from under the piles of Styrofoam, wearing latex masks depicting an ancient man and woman who walk with the crooked backs and halting gait of aching, old people.

Without any dialogue, they shuffle across the littered floor and one calls ‘Hello’ into a microphone, perhaps calling to an absent God, then the other orders the old woman to remove her gold, possibly echoing the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps.

They find a candle – perhaps the burning bush – in the rear wall, and listen to disturbing, portentous and thunderous sound that may represent the voice of God, while digital codes, reminiscent of the Nazis’ branded identification numbers, flash rapidly on the screen.

They search through the scraps to find a series of perspex boxes, one holding headphones, another serving as a bath and a third containing a gingerbread house that provides the children with tasty, sweet treats.

The rear projections inform us that one child is Moses and the other is Aaron, the two brothers who led the Israelites out of Egypt.

One child is ordered to display his scarred arm, leg and back and then he smears the scar on his arm with blood.

From yet another box, they pull medical supplies, including a stethoscope, a bag of blood and bandages that one boy uses to wrap the head and bloodied arm and leg of his friend.

Despite the appropriately warm reception for the two young performers, ultimately the production fails to illuminate the compelling and complex narrative of Exodus, and suffers from style and symbolism that override and obscure its content.

By Kate Herbert

Note: Part II follows in and will include 40 children

Co-created by Adena Jacobs & Aaron Orzech
Director - Adena Jacobs
Designer Part I -Kate Davis
Lighting Part 1 -Emma Valente
Composer -Max Lyandvert

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