Dare to dive

Sue Moss

The latest initiative from Hobart’s is theatre ltd, Boiler Room, was the culminating performance following a participatory 4 day multimedia event that featured workshops and cross-art collaborations. Improvisational artists including the avant-garde music collective the Freedivers, Ryk Goddard, Helen Omand and Jo Pollitt, performed extended improvisations in an interactive space designed by installation artist Sean Bacon. As a pilot project Boiler Room aligns Hobart with current national trends which are re-orientating and re-energising improvisational practice.

Improvisation connotes a movement away from the constraining frameworks of delineated performance while denoting an absence of closure. This apparent paradox is partially resolved through the resonances established by the improvising artists as they modulate space and time to explore the tensions between structure and freedom. What emerges ideally are performances in the moment that enable insights into the vicissitudes of our contemporary culture.

The improvisation practitioners modelled both technique and a finely honed capacity to maintain or relinquish the impetus for an idea. Text, sound or movement was generated from their open-ended presence in the space. Boiler Room was accessible as performance. For the spectator, the insights and understandings are both negotiated and generated through entering and exiting at any point in the space-time continuum.

Sean Bacon’s design incorporated a large screen that split the space with performers traversing either side of the divide. An aluminium can rolls and the subtlety of the sound spills into the silence. A small digital camera captures drummer Josh Green scratching and riffing on metal kegs from behind the screen. He is unseen, yet we apprehend his presence through the digital images before us.

In front of the screen, Jo Pollitt moves against her projected image accentuating the here-yet-not-here aspects of her virtual/actual presence. This interplay between the visible and non-visible generates a fascinating conjunction between the ‘kinematic’ potency of the image, with the dancers’ and musicians’ corporeal presence and absence separated by a scrim (skin) of screen.

Ryk Goddard, through a combination of language and physical improvisation, provides a paean to genial craziness. His verbal skill with its blend of nonsense, paranoia and humour provides a wry social commentary that is politically informed yet without party line divisions. He cunningly reveals our addiction to the 10 second grab line which re-presents the world as a fiction. Despite his verbal ad-hocracy, Goddard offers enough of an obscurely nuanced through-line to chart the terrain of his particular journey.

Mathew Clare provided a visual highlight with a lipstick camera placed inside the bell of his saxophone, projecting a series of chiaroscuro images. Dancer Helen Omand simultaneously explored the rotating rim of gleam surrounding the bell’s silent black void. Perhaps this sequence provides a summation of is theatre’s Boiler Room and the opportunities for improvisational artists to move onto new ground and into the realm of each other’s practice. Here is the moment. Sounds from silence. Movement from sound. Dare to dive.

is theatre, Boiler Room, [email protected], Hobart, Aug 25

RealTime issue #51 Oct-Nov 2002 pg. 44

© Sue Moss; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 October 2002