Kay Schaffer

The Border Project, Despoiled Shore MEDEAMATERIAL Landscape with Argonauts

The Border Project, Despoiled Shore MEDEAMATERIAL Landscape with Argonauts

The fallen-from-grandeur blend of architecture and streetscape of the historic Queen’s Theatre offered an apt historical and geographic metonym for the performance of Despoiled Shore MEDEAMATERIAL Landscape with Argonauts. Derived in part from a text by GDR playwright Heiner Müller, MEDEAMATERIAL is the latest production from a theatre ensemble of Flinders University Drama School graduates calling itself The Border Project. According to program notes, the ensemble aims to chart and map the future language of performance by exploring the interface between live performance and multimedia technologies, thus testing the boundaries between audience and performer.

While some familiar with the draughty venue and its hard platform seating came with cushions, woollen blankets, gloves and beanies, others caressed their glasses of Hardy’s in an effort to keep warm in the cavernous void of a minimalist performance space designed to represent “an urban wasteland where humankind has decimated and abused the natural landscape.”

More physical challenges were to come. The relentless amplitude of synthetic music beat incessantly, producing a searing soundscape like a techno time clock ticking towards death. It raked the skin and tore into the wrecked recesses of consciousness. The complex, cerebral text interfused references to the globalised technoculture of American popular culture (the banality of basketball and Big Macs) with a condensed version of Euripides’ Medea (the ominous effects of power, jealousy, betrayal and violation). These segments fused into a middle space of comic relief, referencing the disappearance of Azaria Chamberlain and giving a luminous, stuffed dingo central positioning on stage in a darkly comic, John Clarke-inspired interview (with the dingo).

The final segment segued from the shadows of German expressionism and film noir to the decimated landscape of modern times. In the last scene, Jason, our damaged argo/astronaut, emerged from the void as television monitors flashed NASA film clips of the explosion of the Challenger space craft. All this, from Greek tragedy to 20th century eco-disaster, in 45 minutes.

The technically adept performance had its strengths. Particularly well realised were the enactments of actors’ identities and desires as the extensions of television images, as well as the evocation of a theatre-of-death psychic landscape rendered through the menacing music, the cacophony of accents, and the pastiche of images from German expressionism. The performance lost some of its impact to screeching sounds, halting, overwrought and sometimes frenetic speech and pronounced breathing of the actors, and the near hysterical pitch of sound and media landscapes in the final segment. The company holds more promise than it delivered in this instance.

The Border Project, Despoiled Shore MEDEAMATERIAL Landscape with Argonauts, writer Heiner Müller, director/designer Sam Haren, performers: Katherine Fyffe, Cameron Goodall, Ksenja Logos, David Heinrich, Amber McMahon, Paul Reichstein, Alirio Zavarce; Queens Theatre, Adelaide, June 20-29

RealTime issue #50 Aug-Sept 2002 pg. 46

© Kay Schaffer; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 August 2002