dream logic

gail priest: sally lewry, XX

IN BACK OF BURKE, SALLY LEWRY SPINS US A YARN, A TRUE STORY, OF HER FATHER AND HIS ANTICS, TOLD WITH HUMOUR UNDERLINED WITH UNEASINESS. LEWRY IS ALMOST NEVER HERSELF: SHE IS FLAG-FOLDING EXPERT, FATHER, LOCAL JUDGE, BUT MOST OFTEN SHE IS A SHEEP. IN WOOLLY HAT AND FIRST PERSON SHE TELLS OF THE UNTIMELY DEMISE OF A NUMBER OF SHEEP EMPLOYED AS PART OF HER FATHER’S ECCENTRIC VERSION OF BACKYARD BLITZ. IT SEEMS IT WAS A ROUGH LIFE FOR THESE SHEEP IN BLACKTOWN, AS WE MAY ASSUME IT WAS FOR THE ARTSY-FARTSY DAUGHTER (THE BLACK SHEEP), NOT TO MENTION THE MOTHER, SHIRL, WHO IS ONLY MENTIONED IN PASSING BUT WHOSE IMAGE IS LEFT FOR US TO CONTEMPLATE AT THE END.

Back of Burke has some good writing, and Lewry is a truly engaging and edgy storyteller. An overhead projector is a neat device for DIY imagery particularly well used when she ‘illustrates’ stories. My niggling issue with the piece is about the flag-folding sections that bookend the show. Though these allow for the manipulation of the ‘flag’ as projection screen, it feels like a near-miss metaphor. Flying your flag, your past, your allegiances, or “putting them in the bottom drawer”, kind of works, but the flag is also a strong symbol of nationalism and militarism, a far cry from Lewry’s portrait of her fiercely individualistic father. These overtones muddied the metaphor and as the idea is only alluded to at beginning and end, with no presence in the central body of the work, it felt like an attempt to wrap up the work too tightly—to fold it too neatly perhaps. Metaphoric debates aside, Lewry is a skilled writer and performer and I look forward to more work from her.

The Paper Woman is mostly a physical performance, a form in which XX has been developing her own vocabulary: angular and suspended yet undercut with moments of frantic frustration, sometimes abject and always curious. The Paper Woman’s world consists of a bed, some suitcases, falling grapefruit, an industrial fan, various sound transmitting devices and a shopping trolley. X squat walks, crawls and gallops around this world interacting with the objects and the architecture of the space creating curious images that don’t strike immediate resonances: she holds a grapefruit under her chin, she carries a mattress up the staircase, she dribbles milk in front of the fan. These images are not from our world, but the Paper Woman’s and they all make complete sense to her. The Paper Woman is perhaps the closest to a performance of dream logic I have seen. Actions are started and stopped with equal abruptness, but undertaken with complete absorption. Within this logic the Paper Woman’s world is strangely complete yet devastatingly fragile—balancing awkwardly like X on her tippy-toes. I don’t really know where I am in this and as a viewer perhaps it is best not to impose waking rules but rather see where X takes you. What I do know is that only XX can make this world, and that renders it something quite special.

Two New Solos: Back of Burke, Sally Lewry, mentor Deborah Pollard; The Paper Woman, XX, mentor Regina Heilmann; PACT presents… initiative, Sydney, Jan 23-Feb 1

RealTime issue #89 Feb-March 2009 pg. 35

© Gail Priest; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 February 2009