Demons by Wayne Macauley, directed by David Branson. A FoCA work in progress. Street TheatreOctober 5-7, 2001, 8.10 pm.
A Festival of Contemporary Arts is only well served when original ideas are tried out. I saw preview night of Demons, but here is a work using a spare but quite intense script, group movement work, imagery on video screens and projections, which takes what to many of us might be Russian 19th Century romanticism (Devils by Dostoevsky) and applies its psychology of the human capacity for self-defeat to characters taking part in S11 demonstrations against globalisation.
The work has been developed so far mainly in Melbourne, but it was artsACT which came up with enough funds for a short workshop and rehearsal period for this production, which is planned to be an early stage of a fully developed work for the Melbourne Festival in a year's time. Hopefully funding will be found for this, because the dramatic structure is largely in place and the theme is certainly relevant.
We begin outside (bring something warm for the first 20 minutes) with a rehearsal by Albert Camus of his 1960 version of Dostoevsky, recreating the exaggerated emotions of romantic drama. An actor, committed to his art, argues the toss with the director and walks out. Camus drives away. And the director takes us to a BBQ where S11 protestors are relaxing after a demo, and where an activist, committed to action, creates a disturbance and perhaps a death.
By now we in the audience are disturbed, feeling uncomfortable, but we are taken into the warmth of the Foyer, into the Theatre, where we are told we are safe, though eerie figures - our mental demons - are outside the windows. We complete the circle out the back of theatre to our starting point seeing a modern death and a Dostoevsky death on the way, to discover that Camus' play is off because he has been killed in a car smash. We end as uncomfortable as we began.
For an old peacenik like me, it's disturbing to think that Dostoevsky's tragic flaw view of humanity might be right. Making us uncomfortable is a legitimate role for theatre, and Demons certainly has potential.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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