Directed by: Chenoeh Miller
Lighting Design: Hartley T.A. Kemp
Sound design: Dane Alexander
Performers: Erica Field, Alicia Jones, Ruby Rowat, Peta Ward
Presented by Little Dove Theatre Art
Courtyard Studios, Canberra Theatre Centre, 3rd – 5th December 2015
Reviewed by Bill Stephens
Described as “a live art work” Chenoeh Miller’s creation, “Evangeline”, as presented at the first preview last night, defies easy categorisation.
Drawing on elements of Japanese butoh combined with psychological and philosophical references, Miller has created an extraordinary performance exploring reactions to grief, which offers an aural, visual, and if you’re game, even a tactile dimension to an extraordinary theatrical experience.
The experience commences on arrival at the Courtyard Studio when audience members are ushered into a disco-like environment complete with pumping music, jabbing coloured lights and smoke haze, where in a small defined stage area, two women, both in bright red costumes, one with her back to the audience, the other facing the audience with head downcast, perform endless repetitive gyrations or spasms to the music.
There are wooden tables, with boxes spread around for the audience to sit on. Cocktails and hors oeuvres are on offer, and the audience is encouraged to move around and observe the performers from different angles.
Eventually two more red-clad women enter through the audience. As they reach the stage area, all the performers face the audience and in addition to repeating the movement already established, all begin contorting their faces into grotesque expressions of grief, bewilderment or horror.
From time to time the music changes, but the gyrations and spasms are repeated relentlessly, until finally the four women simultaneously fall to the ground and lay motionless.
Eventually they rise and stand in a bewildered, trancelike state, until members of the audience feel the compulsion to comfort one or other of them.
Then, simultaneously, they raise their arms above their heads and slowly leave the stage, leaving their audience in awe of their bravery and endurance, perhaps moved, bewildered or puzzled, but certainly not ambivalent.