Wednesday, 19 September 2007

pvi collective - reform, Sept 19, 2007

pvi collective - reform  
By pvi collective
Melbourne Fringe Festival
North Melbourne Town Hall
Sept 19 to 30, 2007
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Sept 19, 2007

How does one describe pvi collective - reform? It is site-specific guerrilla theatre foisted upon an unsuspecting public who become unwitting actors in this hit and run event. It is like being caught in an episode of The Chaser or following a group of vigilante do-gooders on a moral crusade.

The five members of the Loyal Citizens Underground or LCU (Ofa Fotu, Jackson Castiglione, Sarah Wilkinson, Ben Sutton) look like scouts patrolling city streets, upholding by-laws and handing out good conduct awards to pedestrians. The small audience is encouraged to remain inconspicuous as we follow their one-hour tour of duty on Swanton Street. Amazingly, their victims are unaware of the silent audience apart from those who notice the large headphones.

We are each equipped with a radio and headset. After a video briefing we embark on our travels, wearing our headphones and lead like schoolchildren by Martin, our benevolent dictator and guide who, like the rest of the team, wears a high-visibility lime green top.

Martin engages earnestly with citizens on the tram while we listen to his advice, recorded good behaviour instructions from an Orwellian voice and an annoying brand of soothing electronic muzak (Pretty Boy Crossover).

When we reach Swanston Street we, the great unnoticed, witness pedestrians being accosted by pairs of LCU and forcibly re-educated about acceptable public behaviour such as jaywalking, loitering and unlawful assembly. The enthusiastic and zealous goody-two-shoes reform patrol applauds good behaviour and hands out award cards called Codes of Conduct or COCs.

Most are bemused, some are amused, others are shocked or irate. Many suspect that they have just been fined for breaking a ridiculous or non-existent by-law. Is a group of three an unlawful assembly? What is the legal definition of loitering and what is the fine? Is sitting on the wall outside the Town Hall considered soliciting?

The LCU confronts a beggar, suggesting that, rather than asking for change, “the change should come from you.” The LCU might cross the road in straight lines but they cross the line that separates audience from performer. Although they look comfortable and cheerful, we the viewers cringe and want to cry out, “No! It’s a joke! Don’t believe them! It’s not a real fine!”

But we conform like sheep, obediently holding hands and crossing the road, practising our non-loitering dance and delighting in our anonymity. pvi collective - reform is a novelty and a riot.

By Kate Herbert

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