Thursday, 26 October 2017

Book of Exodus Part II *** Oct 19, 2017

Created by Adena Jacobs & Aaron Orzech, by Fraught Outfit
At Theatre Works, until Oct 29, 2017
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts on Thurs Oct 26, 2017 in print only. KH

The cast of fifteen children works very hard in Book of Exodus Part II, an abstract, physical interpretation of Exodus, the second book of the Old Testament.

Adena Jacobs’ production, developed with Aaron Orzech, takes literally the notion of ‘The Children of Israel’ by casting children as the Israelites who escape Egypt led my Moses, roam the desert and invoke the wrath of Yahweh when they worship a false idol.

The cast captures a sense of the tribe’s disorientation, unruliness and desperate need of the leadership of Moses or Yahweh to lead them out of the desert and provide them with purpose.

Part I of Book of Exodus included surtitles explaining narrative and characters, but Part II has no such explication so relies on theatrical imagery and some visually engaging vignettes.

The performance is episodic, with children performing scenes that distil the stories into simple, repeated, ritualistic actions.

They begin in sleeping bags on the gleaming, black floor then rise to weave through the space as if lost in the desert.

They strip to shorts and singlets, then run, chase, murmur, whisper and scream – all without dialogue, apart from a few words spoken by one child.

They spill black powder, spreading it over their skin and the ground then, in imagery that exaggerates the notion that they are infants, they suck on babies’ bottles or drink from a complicated tubal feeding system attached to one child who may depict Moses.

They jump frantically to reach a rack of feeding nipples lowered from above, but finally, exhausted by their failed efforts to drink from this device, they degenerate into feverish, convulsive hysteria.

Although they work hard, the children appear to have limited connection to the story so the Exodus myth remains confusing and incoherent; even those familiar with Exodus may not penetrate the symbolism.

Unfortunately, this production is so opaque and obtuse that the compelling stories of Exodus are unrecognisable and the outcome is ultimately unsatisfying theatre.

By Kate Herbert

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