Excuse me for staring but…

Maryanne Lynch wonders Which Way’s Up

Michael Pini and Elizabeth Navratil in Which Way’s Up

Michael Pini and Elizabeth Navratil in Which Way’s Up

Excuse me for staring but…Have you ever had sex? Do people in your country have washing machines? Do you have a drinking problem? Want to go walkabout? Excuse me for asking but…Do you cry when you’re upset?

Four faces peer out from behind rope bars. Four figures enact 4 stories of ‘difference.’ The Indigenous woman, the migrant man, a woman with cerebral palsy, a male CP-er too. But against what or whom is this difference reckoned? Which is precisely the point of writer-director Lowana Moxham’s Which Way’s Up.

This is a performance work made up of composite parts—thematically, stylistically and in terms of the artists who’ve contributed to its development. Specifically, inside and outside of ‘the world of the drama’ are 4 people thrown together because of the perception of others; but Elizabeth Navratil, Guiliano Perez Reyes, Sharman Parsons and Michael Pini emphasise in their wittily ambivalent stage presence the dubious quality of ‘us/them’ definitions.

Two actors and 2 dancers, the 4 performers make their way through a series of vignettes depicting the world of ‘difference’ from either side of the line of dangling ropes which transforms itself from frame to prison cell to patio lattice to, as overarching metaphor, the weave and weft of the small moments that define us. Their actions are given added texture by musicians Simon Sheedy and Martin Lippi, although these 2 performers are themselves removed from the drama (a missed opportunity?).

In one of the show’s most powerful sequences, a couple (Navratil and Pini) are dining at a restaurant. She needs a straw; he has a ready supply; the exchange is deeply sensual. In comes a waiter, impatient yet polite, moving the wheelchair out of the way with exaggerated care, again, and again, and again. Eventually, seizing the day, the couple simultaneously climax in a shower of pink straws—and the waiter is left open-mouthed at the possibility of…sex?(!) He’s the one who seems strangely limited.

Moxham aims to show up old prejudices and break down stereotypes by a careful analysis of the everyday. Not for her a broad sweep through her ideas but rather a playful interrogation of gesture, look and silence. Which Way’s Up is a little uneven in its assimilation of action, artforms and performers but the intentions—and integrity—of the work are clear.

Which Way’s Up, director Lowana Moxham, designer Kate Stewart, movement consultant Scotia Monkivitch, lighting design Geoff Squires, featuring Elizabeth Navratil, Giuliano Perez Reyes, Sharman Parsons, Michael Pini, original music by Simon Sheey, Martin Lippi, Metro Arts Theatre, Brisbane, July 21 – 25

RealTime issue #27 Oct-Nov 1998 pg. 12

© Maryanne Lynch; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 October 1998
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