Monday, December 2, 2013

The Green Room

By Thomas Connelly

In my utopia, art would be intimate. Art would compel people to think. Art would take place in interesting venues. The Green Room gave me a taste of my utopian dreams.

In this work, The Green Room, Jane Longhurst and Dylan Sheridan were able to create something challenging and invigorating. They have made the overture to an endless and communal symphony, that each of us can carry and add to daily. 

On a sunny first day of summer I drove to a much ignored historical part of Hobart, the Victoria Gunpowder Magazine on the Queens Domain.

I arrive early, and entertain myself with a stroll along Soldiers Memorial Avenue. A bleak and silently beautiful memorial to those sacrificed in the Great War . Alone but for the wind on my face and the song of the birds, this quiet futility of war moment places me in the right frame of mind for the Green Room

The audience is led to an intimate dance floor . A woman is dressed in black:. is she a servant or a mourner? As she endlessly sweeps the floor with her old fashioned broom, Dylan Sheridan's modulated rumblings signal a dreamy twilight entrance and a beginning. A theatre of gesture and sound follows, filling the abandoned space and transmuting the audience. Minimal lighting adds a thrilling unity. 

Years ago punks prided themselves on breaking the distance between performer and audience. The Green Room extends this idea. The audience becomes the performance. The rustling of clothing - the string section, shifting feet - percussion, breathing - woodwind. Peristaltic motion forms the brass section, breaks down barriers, and at the same time raises questions and the audience becomes part of the performance. What is meant to be heard? What is performance? What is real?

Jane Longhurst performs a silent dance; her movements layering questions and her very being becomes ambiguous. A ghost of the long empty gunpowder magazine? An echo of the forgotten Crimean War? The fear of Tsarist expansion? The endless domestic labour of women? Or is her sweeping structure for the soundscape?

The performance doesn't end, rather it fades and changes location. Walking away from the keyboard, doors open and the audience slowly melts away, a simulated ending. Once everyone has left the room Jane finishes her sweeping and her dance. And we are outside in the light and the real world. Off in the distance a band plays, birds sing, conversation flows. The performance continues without end. 

In all this was a fabulous production; a subtle and revolutionary work. Simple and complex, artless and polished, all at once. Equal parts theatre, dance, installation and composition. All bundled up with questioning strings, in a appropriate and interesting venue. A venue that not only allows intimacy, but forces intimacy upon the audience and performers alike. 

Congratulations to the Salamanca Arts Centre's HyPe (Hybrid Performance) Program for nurturing innovation and allowing this and many other vigorous performances to be created in and around the local area.