the poetry of ages

keith gallasch contemplates force majeure’s the age i’m in

 Byron Perry, The Age I’m In, Force Majeure

Byron Perry, The Age I’m In, Force Majeure

Byron Perry, The Age I’m In, Force Majeure

FORCE MAJEURE’S LATEST CREATION IS A KALEIDOSCOPIC REVERIE THAT EMBODIES A HOST OF ATTITUDES ABOUT AGE AND AGEING—OF THE PERFORMERS AND THOSE
INTERVIEWED FOR THE PROJECT. BUT RATHER THAN ADOPTING A LITERAL, DOCUMENTARY APPROACH, FORCE MAJEURE GOES FOR TELLINGLY MAGICAL JUXTAPOSITIONS AND
DISJUNCTIONS.

A key part of the theatrical technique of The Age I’m In is the mismatching of attitudes, ages, genders and bodies. In the beginning the massed performers effectively mime to voices belonging to persons often very different from themselves. Late in the work, Byron Perry and Kirsty McKracken excel in mouthing the words of children while exquisitely evoking the out of synch body movements that come with their restless energy and distracted attentiveness—it’s a beautiful dance.

Performers mask their faces with the portraits of others on small and very robust, portable digital screens released from wires above. Elsewhere, these screens are moved up or down clothed bodies, revealing naked selves beneath and the subtleties and sometimes pathos of their ageing. Shared with and tugged from one dancer to another the screens conjure jokey, surreal images evocative of the lateral creativity of youth. Elsewhere, the performers mime their own voiceovers. Daniel Daw, in a richly idiosyncratic dance declares that he never saw himself as disabled and reveals the power of differently-abled performance.

In another strain, centre-stage dramatic vignettes portray gaps generated by the closed world of the iPod listener, or the closed ears of the elderly indifferent to the young (which becomes a squirming mini-dance). Another series, this time of apparently domestic scenes around table and chairs upstage, is less compelling, opaque even.

The Age I’m In concludes with dark intimations of mortality: a slide into dementia, a funeral procession (with a darkened New Orleans pulse), a touching, finely moved pieta (Daw and actor Vincent Crowley) and the fall of fine rain onto the performers gathered downstage—an image both melancholy and suggestive of regeneration, like a sunshower, although oddly inconsistent with the show’s other imagery.

What I liked about The Age I’m In was the way that bodies of one age could engage with those of others in a grand ‘what if’ scenario—“What if I was 80? What if I was four?” And even though the large number and brevity of most of the recorded utterances limited the possibility of any far-reaching empathy, The Age I’m In was always richly suggestive, and, as ever with the direction of Kate Champion, the collaborations across media and theatrical devices was as fascinating as the age and skills mix of her cast.

Force Majeure, The Age I’m In, director Kate Champion, performers Marlo Benjamin, Maggie Blinco/Annie Byron, Samuel Brent, Tilda Cobham Hervey, Vincent Crowley, Daniel Daw, Brian Harrison, Roz Hervey, Kirstie McCracken, Veronica Neave, Byron Perry, set & lighting designer Geoff Cobham, costumes Bruce McKniven, sound designer Mark Blackwell, visual artist William Yang, audiovisual producer Tony Melov; Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House, January 8-12

RealTime issue #83 Feb-March 2008 pg. 14

1 February 2008