Queerly constrained

Stephen Armstrong finds CAB/SAV II occasionally heady, but not full-bodied

Caroline Dunphy & Lisa O’Neill, Oily Nights in Strathcliffe

Caroline Dunphy & Lisa O’Neill, Oily Nights in Strathcliffe

In recent years, Brisbane’s been long on shorts. Diverse events have been memorably programmed by Metro Arts, Kooemba Jdarra, Renegade, the brilliant if defunct Crab Room, Cherry Herring, Zoo, LIVID and more. Director Lucinda Shaw marks the territory of CAB/SAV II as “a group of queer-aligned performing artists into difference, making unconstrained theatre that celebrates full humanity and expresses and transcends sexuality.” In the context of what else is around, this sense of unconstrained difference just never materialised —even if the final triptych was worth the wait.

The Lisa O’Neill choreographed Lino Cuts, performed by Caroline Dunphy and Christina Koch, opened the show with something less than a fanfare. Intensely gestural and ritualistic, O’Neill’s choreography usually works its way beneath the skin but this piece seemed blunt and incomplete—an anxious duet for competing ids, Lino Cuts was well performed but too long, or perhaps not long enough, to reinforce and work its themes.

Beneath a projection of Lucinda Shaw’s tidal film Shells, Jem Coones recites his poem “Postcard From a Butcher’s Window” accompanied, and finally silenced by, cellist David Sills (playing the Wesley-Smiths’ White Knight) who in turn is silenced by a kiss. Coones himself, lolling about in a hunky, singleted kind of way inside the image of a projected shell, may have provided just one allusion too many, sentimentalising what might have been a memorable telling of sexual initiation where “the ocean’s hush spoke like a foul-mouthed poet.” A multimedia concoction rather than reconstitution.

Singer/pianist Barb Daveson, accompanied by Sills, performed a charming lament of longing and leaving from her Highways And Hangovers but was poorly programmed in the middle of a set. Daveson was followed by the Babel-esque confusion of Untitled Spoken Word by poetess (sic) Jess Godfrey whose energised performance was full of self-obsessing verve (self/alienation/self/representation/self) and included a memorable moment of retort with her own projected image.

The second half momentarily stalled with Remembering Eve, a terminal film memory by Kris Kneen, but was finally hot-wired by Lucinda Shaw performing “Everywhere I Go Someone’s Reading Poetry.” Sharp, witty, monumentally present, Shaw’s gothic take on the insouciance of art and its paradoxical capacity for banality and pain was a much needed creative call to arms.

The tragi-comic fable of porn hero Joey Stefano (sex, drugs, sex, love, loss, drugs, death) in Psycho The/Rapist #2 Joey Stefano introduced a welcome queer physic. Conceived and performed by Brian Lucas, this is the second in a series of 3 works by an accomplished storyteller whose body is as eloquent as his clever use of prologue, snatch-narrative and sound-bite.

CAB/SAV II concluded with Lisa O’Neill’s powerful Oily Nights In Strathcliffe performed with intensity by O’Neill and Caroline Dunphy (with a soundtrack by Tom Waits, Beck and powermad). Ritual, and the ritual of performance itself, is at the heart of O’Neill’s work. She and Dunphy perform like giants behind miniature picket fences, isolated and out of reach of each other’s screams, playing out rites of desperation and arousal to escape the rites of emotional atrophy. In Oily Nights In Strathcliffe performance and conceptual intelligence come together—O’Neill’s choreography lures, suspends, creeps and catapults.

CAB/SAV II promised queer concentrate but never turned itself over to queerness as an event. The conscious rejection of format, the allusion to and rejection of cabaret, caused its own problems of flagging energy, restless un-anticipation, no sense of celebration or commentary and problems with set ups which a ce n’est pas CABaret attitude might have subverted with fun and SAVvy.

CAB/SAV II, a season of short works for the 1999 Pride Festival, Director Lucinda Shaw, Metro Arts Theatre, June 30 – July 3

RealTime issue #32 Aug-Sept 1999 pg. 37

© Stephen Armstrong; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 August 1999