Mess – A Belco Arts Production at Belconnen Arts Centre Theatre, Canberra, October 1-2, 2020.
Reviewed by Frank McKone
Next production: intimacy October 22-23, 2020.
Tel: 02 6173 3300 www.belcoarts.com.au
Natsuko Yonezawa – Director/Performer;
Christopher Samuel Carroll – Performer/Collaborator;
Miriam Slater – Performer/Collaborator;
Marline Claudine Radice – Composer/Live Musician;
Chenoeh Miller – Producer/Assistant Director;
byrd – Set Designer;
Linda Buck – Lighting Designer (Belco Arts’ Technical Manager)
Anni Doyle Wawrzynczak – Stage Manager
Kyle Sheedy – Audio Operator
Shan Crosbie & Skye Rutherford – Marketing & Promotion
With carefully managed Covid-19 social distancing, the brand new Belconnen Arts Centre Theatre presented its second production to a limited audience of 58, spaced out in three rows along each side of a long quite narrow performing area, its floor polished to mirror reflection quality: a symbol in its own right, reflecting a quality production.
The shadowy dimly lit corridor waits empty of living beings except for, at one end with her back to us, we notice a woman in sinuous red is making slow small movements of her shoulders, arms and hands. As she fades out of the acting space, small percussion sounds begin and she is replaced by the composer as something like an earth-mother figure, now producing disturbing keening woodwind whistles.
As she too fades back and a soundscape surrounds us surruptitiously, in a kind of musique concrète form, two figures – male and female – each in non-descript greyish loose clothing enter from opposite ends and action begins. Like an extension and exaggeration of the movements of the original woman in red, these two do not speak or make any sounds throughout the whole performance. They are clearly not in communication, perhaps not able to be in communication with each other when they enter. We wait, watching the detail of their movements and the feelings they apparently express, and wonder – will this isolation reach some point of fruitful life?
Of course, it’s not my role here to be a spoiler.
For me personally, the concentrated detailed movement work of Miriam Slater and Christopher Samuel Carroll was fascinating and absorbing in a special way. In my teaching days I was lucky indeed to have been taught by Anton Witsel, one time member of the Nederlands Ballet and student of French mime artists Jean-Louis Barrault and Jacques Lecoq. I had also taught a Japanese exchange student at one time, stirring up my interest in Noh drama, Kabuki and Butoh dance; and I had separately found the teachings of Rudolph Laban especially effective in teaching movement as the basis of drama to my students.
So to see these performers demonstrating like a masterclass how to make elements of movement – never quite mime, not exactly dance – into what could look like powerfully creative improvisation, in concert with sound and light, rather than either being in merely response to the other, was a wonderful experience. It is so good to see work of this depth in this new theatre. I trust that Belco Arts will keep up the good work.
And, almost by the way, I think Natsuko Yonezawa has a positive view despite the ‘mess’ of lockdown.