Thursday 6 June 1996

Autopsy, June 6, 1996

 Written by Julianne O’Brien
Directed by Rosemary Myers and Bruce Gladwin
By Arena Theatre, at Fairfax Studio, June 6-16, 1996
 Reviewed by Kate Herbert around June 6, 1006

Pop Art, Pop Psychology and Pop Technology collide in Autopsy, Arena Theatre's new show for young audiences. Well, perhaps not too young because it would be dead scary for anyone under teenage. In fact, for this writer who has nightmares after The X Files the lurid computer graphics of a dissected body were most unsettling.

The show is like an 80-minute video clip with substantial content and welcome irony. It opens with pounding, live rock music, unintelligible lyrics, club dancing and Star Trek lighting effects. The wildly entertaining music by The Band of Hope, which includes director Rosemary Myers, continues throughout. So do the graphics, enormous visual representations of the intimate-Internet conversations of two social isolates seeking warmth and solace in an unresponsive world.

They are surrounded by computerised fitness tests, personality tests, work-places, medical treatment and communication. No wonder they are victims of that pervasive urban angst which is so prevalent in art for youth. It is tiresome for those who have been through it but people keep suffering alienation no matter who has travelled the path before them.

Myers has kept the production swift, vivid and pumpin'. It caters to the ad-break attention span of many teenagers and their capacity to absorb masses of information with a low intellectual-high noise impact.  The extraordinary set of a cartoon-like inflatable Hydra is designed by visual artist Maria Kozic and is complemented by an exceptional and complex lighting design by Ben Cobham.

Performers are all engaging and funny (Genevieve Morris, Trevor Major, Bruce Gladwin, Myers, musician Hugh Covill) and mouth the platitudes of pop psych with an acerbic touch of irony. There are sensitive adn poignant moments when a mother and girlfriend try to deal with a young man's lapse into coma.

The script has been devised after exhaustive interviews with people of all ages about their values and was developed with the dramaturgical expertise of Julianne O'Brien.

Autopsy raises issues for teenagers about what constitutes genuine communication and what we really value in our lives. It will leave 'em thinking  - and dancing. The C.D. is available at their door.

Sunday 2 June 1996

William Shakespeare Hung, Drawn and Quartered, June 2, 1996

By Not Yet It's Difficult
IRAA 14 Lowther St. Alphington until June 8, 1996
Reviewed by Kate Herbert around June 2, 1966

It is peculiar that Anglophiles have elevated a very dead white male, notwithstanding his exceptional talent, to the status of a god. William Shakespeare: Hung, Drawn and Quartered diffuses the hype and histrionics which surround the man who became a legend after his own time.

Director, David Pledger's company, Not Yet It's Difficult, creates experimental, non-narrative theatre with passion, physicality, complicity and irreverence at its centre. WSHDQ is no exception. Its five performers (Maud Davey, Paul Bongiovanni, Kha Tran Viet, Danielle Long, Greg Ulfan) weave a tapestry of images throughout an empty space while we, the observers-participants stand, crouch, sit and follow them about.

WSDHQ shatters the barriers between audience and performer by addressing us directly, working close to us, moving us around the space. It plays roughly recorded Vox Pops of people talking about Will. It eliminates the transporting nature of most conventional theatre by interrupting the flow to introduce all the artists, even those who are not present. They forego the silly convention of a  box-office in the foyer by selling tickets in the space as actors prepare for the performance. The tickets themselves are pages ripped irreverently from your favourite Shakespeare. Wicked!

WSHDQ bridges the gap between director and performance. Pledger is amongst the audience then onstage. His ironic political diatribe is followed by an evangelical tirade about Shakespeare being the way to faith, hope and joy in a godless world.

Shakespeare has become precious as gold - or god. His work has fostered idolatry, superiority, Anglophilia, vanity and sneering at those who do not appreciate him. The company does beautifully rendered excerpts from several plays but it ridicules the obsessive, almost patriarchal dominance of his work in literary and theatrical circles. They mock-masturbate, kiss, fawn and prostrate themselves to the work. "Shakespeare invented English. Shakespeare invented Violence. Shakespeare invented The Exit."

One frighteningly accurate scene was the torture of an auditionee who does not understand iambic pentameter or any other poetic rhythmic elements of the verse. He is beaten with a volume of complete works. It is a Police State which governs our literary taste and values.

347 wds