THEATRE BY FRANK MCKONE
Alibi. Damaged Goods (Belgium) directed by Meg Stuart. Sydney Festival at Sydney Town Hall January 19, 21 and 22, 2004.
I worked it out 1 hour 30 minutes into 2 hours without interval. By attempting to confront the audience, this post-post-modern "dance" performance tried to say "because you want to be polite normal people, you allow things to happen which shouldn't be allowed to happen." A worthy theme but ....
The sound track bombarded us, lights were turned on us, among disconnected film projections dysfunctional characters accused us in long boring monologues. I saw almost no dance, but interminable repetitious mimetic movement sequences. In each the point was made in the first 30 seconds but then repeated itself with slight variations for up to 15 minutes, sequence after sequence for 2 hours.
On opening night the first of about 50 audience members clattered down the wooden bleachers after 20 minutes. I was obliged to stay, to see a grand nonentity of an ending. Movement stops, lights and sound switch off. That's it. Brilliant!
The performers were lucky the audience who stayed were good polite Australians. This piece is typical old-fashioned Continental European self-indulgent existential angst. Some people clapped and even a few cheered the bravura effort which looked and probably was exhausting.
It's not that I don't like modern dance. Remember - well I do - Merce Cunningham's completely silent dance in the late 1950s? No music! It was fascinating and showed us that our assumptions should never be taken for granted. So I suppose there are some 16-year-olds today who will say Yes (with a punch in the air) to Damaged Goods. But because their work showed so little subtlety or progression in the dance, it failed to move the audience emotionally.
Perhaps that's what they wanted to prove - that modern life so overwhelms us that we are no longer moved. A French character, simultaneously on film and on stage, said he was so ordinary that no-one would notice him. This is so old hat that we who were still there remained polite and allowed this performance to happen. No-one seriously challenged back like the audience who physically attacked an actor in the 1960s as he deliberately remained silent. Was our politeness worth it? I think not.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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