The ambiguities of sin

Leah Mercer

Zen Zen Zo, those with Lucifer

Zen Zen Zo, those with Lucifer

Zen Zen Zo, those with Lucifer

Zen Zen Zo’s latest work those with Lucifer is the first of what will be an annual In The Raw Studio Season providing a space where the company, now in its 13th year, “can return to its experimental roots, and develop new, challenging and edgy works.” It also marks the first time that Artistic Directors Lynne Bradley and Simon Woods have handed over the directing reins, in this case to their newly appointed Associate Director, Steven Mitchell Wright.

According to Wright, those with Lucifer was inspired by the myth of Lucifer’s fall from heaven as punishment for sin. Told from the perspective of contemporary humankind or “sinners”, using the Seven Deadly Sins as a framework and the fall of Lucifer as a starting point, the performance and its audience moves through the space of Sub-Station 4 (a disused power station). Along this journey, we and Lucifer (Katrina Cornwell) are introduced to sins written on the wall and performed by the ensemble or by various configurations of duets and trios. All the usual suspects appear: Sloth, Gluttony, Greed, Envy, Lust. Variously depicted through images of yuppies socialising (“Sloth”) or babies slopping up pasta (“Greed”), these episodes were engaging and entertainingly performed, but for the most part steered clear of exploring the consequences of sin. Those episodes that did left a lasting impression.

“Pride”, the final episode, began with what was a signature image for the work, one which opened and closed the show, each performer standing before the audience with arms and fingers extended straight up, faces tilted towards the sky, in an exquisite expression of abandon and endeavour. The race-like scenario that followed provided a compelling image for a physical theatre company, where training is all and ego is often one of the first hurdles. Here, as in “Envy”, which honed in on the consequences of body image, “sin” seemed to take a toll.

The shifting ground of what qualifies as divine, or moral or just plain good taste makes it difficult to know what constitutes sin nowadays. When bureaucrats and politicians lock up children in the desert and callous indifference to human life seems the norm, these old sins just don’t seem to cut it anymore. Or perhaps a redefinition of sin is in order. In those with Lucifer ‘sin’ was for the most part associated with things that seemed more fun than evil.

Zen Zen Zo has a knack for nurturing emerging talent whose passion for performance feeds and enriches their work. The abandon and joy exhibited by this young ensemble created a kind of ‘total performance.’ Particular mention should be made of Katrina Cornwell, her Lucifer acted as both observer and participant, providing the perfect conduit for the audience. This was a sold-out season, with extra shows added. To see young audiences and young performers clearly engaged by the potential of live performance demonstrates that this In the Raw season represents an exciting new step for Zen Zen Zo and for their work with emerging talent in Queensland.

Zen Zen Zo, those with Lucifer, director: Steven Mitchell Wright, performers Katrina Cornwell, Mary Findlay, Kat Henry, Mark Hill, Katie Hollins, Tora Hylands, Robbie O’Brien, Kat Scott, Helen Smith, Peta Ward, Annabelle Winkler, co-choreographer Lynne Bradley, composer: Colin Webber, sound artists Emma Dean, Lyndon Chester, lighting Simon Woods, designers: Steven Mitchell Wright, Suzie Russell, Annabelle Winkler, Sub-Station 4, Brisbane, July 20-30

RealTime issue #69 Oct-Nov 2005 pg. 35

© Leah Mercer; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 October 2005