Sunday, September 13, 2009

This Kind Of Ruckus (version 1.0 and Performance Space)

S: I was really excited for this show. As in, the week before it opened I had a dream that I went and saw it. Sadly I don’t remember much about the dream except that the show included the cast climbing on a wall using magnets. Basically the wall was a massive sheet of metal and the cast held magnets in their hands and feet (in dreams people can hold things with their feet) and climbed on the wall. It was an awesome effect that sadly wasn’t in the real show.

M: Disappointing

S: I do remember after the show, in my dream, someone asked me what I thought, and all I had to say was “well it was no Deeply Offensive… but it was quite good”.

M: Are you sticking by that assessment?

S: Yes I am. When I saw Deeply Offensive in 2007, I was a first year theatre student with a better knowledge of west end musicals than the Sydney theatre scene, and it completely changed my concept of how theatre could be put together and what it could do; so I guess my expectations were kind of high for this show. Anyone who has read my Deeply Offensive… review (see archive) knows how much I loved their previous work. What about you?

M: I think it’s a pretty hard line you’re taking in comparing it with Deeply Offensive. This work struck me as being totally different, both formally and in terms of its content.

S: Absolutely, and if these two shows weren’t made under the same banner, I would never have thought to compare them. But I guess I had somewhat naively, considering I’d only seen one show, come to an understanding of what to expect from Version 1.0 and this was something different from what I had wanted. That being said, it was something else that I wanted.

M: After all Deeply Offensive was so clear in what it was doing that maybe it was hard not to see it as a company defining production. Essentially, This Kind Of Ruckus is an exploration of violence in contemporary Australia, or rather, as I saw it, attitudes to violence. Entrenched in a landscape of club beats, bubble wrap and sporting exercises spanning the depth of Bay 20; the work uses recent high profile sexual assault cases emerging from the football community as a catalyst in their work. We piece together this view from the personal stories of the cast, press conferences and possibly other media sources, as in this work, unlike Deeply Offensive, their research remain unnamed.

S: Which I was surprised to think was a good decision in this case. The sometimes bodiless voices made the piece more haunting than it would have been if every story was academically referenced.

M: Yeah, it wasn’t about lampooning certain individuals; that would have been too easy, stand up comedy material, even footy show material. Like I suggested earlier, this work was about attitudes towards violence not just who did what and to whom.


S: The play essentially was split into two halves, of similar action, bookended by some cheerleader moves in front of a brightly lit curtain. The sporting theme informed the piece throughout, from the cast doing warm-ups to the half-time oranges.

M: Magic

S: Each half began with a personal story from a cast member which was then either interrupted or interrogated by the other members of the cast.

M: These moments were where I could most clearly identify these attitudes I’m talking about. When, after Danielle Antaki recounts a harrowing night with an ex boyfriend, Jane Phegan asks “What were you wearing?”

S: That was fucked.

M: For me this encapsulated something of both the Media’s attitude to victims of sexual violence and said something about club culture. A kind of disdain, an accusation that they’re asking for it, an easy shift of blame.

S: A similar moment was when Arky adorned Jane with a black eye (a simple make-up effect) then tried to justify it as an accident, “what do you want me to do? Do you want to spank me?”. His response just didn’t let up, until his questioning shoulders were almost above his head.

M: That was also, really fucked.

S: So much so the audience was split between gagging and laughing. But these small personal moments acted more as transitions for the major sections of the show which took place behind the curtain.

M: These sections were made up of repeated motifs and movements, gradually getting more and more brutal and uncontrolled. Each drawing of the curtain revealed David Williams on a chair staring directly at a prostrate, possibly unconscious Kim Vercoe. I want to say staring straight at her cunt. His face, along with other gorgeously time lapsed, delayed and live fed footage was projected onto two large white screens hanging over the front half of the stage.

S: Let’s talk vision for a moment. Sean Bacon makes video in theatre work. Projections can be really tacky and unnecessary but Version 1.0 use them perfectly. Throughout the piece a combination of live feed and recorded videos are seamlessly mixed to give us not only a different perspective on the work, but insight into the stage action that would otherwise be lost.

M: Here they contributed to the works swirling visceral nature, flesh on flesh, breathing. Bringing a liveness and weight to the action onstage. Yes I agree.

S: Visceral is exactly it, and I think this was largely to do with Gail Priest’s completely violent club inspired soundtrack.

M: Maybe not largely, I think it had more to do with the bodies of the performers. Whether it be dancing (aggressively) at each other or sprinting the length of the space or downing beer and fluoro coloured muck in plastic cups or punching each other in face as Jane and Kim did by the beer table late in the work.

S: For me though it was often the music that brought that feeling from the stage into the audience, the bass entwining itself in your stomach, as you watched the sometimes gross, but always bodily, action.

M: It’s interesting then, that we’ve already spoken about possibly the most visceral reaction in the audience, which was unaccompanied by music, just Arky’s shrugging shoulders.

S: True.

M: Point one Mark. Chalk it up.

S: Alright mate, well said. Alright, let’s get on with the show. (That’s a Ruckus joke for those playing at home). We haven’t talked about our favourite bit yet.

M: Oh yeah that was also fucked up. After David’s menacing stare at Kim, Jane facilitated a kind of reconciliation between them. Constantly interrupting a role playing conversation between the two of them. Asking, how they think it’s going. Pulling David up for doing the wrong thing.

S: But getting him to put it in positive turns, like a primary school teacher saying “let’s not have a rules list, let’s have a hopes list”.

M: Kim is frustrated to be in the same light as David and she hates it when he does that walking thing when he pretends he’s not walking. It’s very threatening.

S: He totally does that by the way, she’s not making it up.

M: You did see Deeply Offensive three times right?

S: Yeah but I’m not being a fan boy anymore because I didn’t think this show was perfect.

M: What was wrong with it Simon?

S: For a start I felt like there was a lot of wasted time. There were lengthy movements between images that I didn’t think helped build anything.

M: I appreciated the time to catch myself, and found that the break meant that diving back into the same kinds of issues/images made the work even more present. I picked up a paper the other day and reading the sports section, they actually had a cute little graphic saying “scandal free zone” next to an article on the footy.

S: I guess the other problem I had was with the content, and I that I felt it didn’t blow out the issue, so much as recap the attitudes towards it. Maybe it’s just because I’m at a university and in a course where we talk about gender politics all the time, but I just came out feeling like I hadn’t really heard or seen anything that I hadn’t thought about before. It seemed to me like the material was made for an audience that wouldn’t ever attend a Version 1.0 show. I didn’t see any football colours in the crowd.

M: Yeah maybe

S: But I guess it’s also important for this issue to not go away. I may be happy with my own attitudes and be willing to put the issues to rest in my mind, but there is still a lot of cultural change that needs to occur.

M: And that’s what I held onto as the most important statement the work was making. That a cultural attitude to sexual violence exists in Australia that means we expect to open the paper and see a scandal, and that these situations can be swept away with a few mumbled words. Embarrassing for all concerned.

S: But I wanted more engagement with why that culture exists and how we can move forward from it, or even how it is treated in the media, or how it affects the individuals who fight against it, rather than simply a portrayal of how horrible the culture itself is. I feel there was meat in the issues that they never got onto the stage.

M: You wanted documentary theatre, not a real exploration of the culture’s impact on bodies.

S: That’s because I’m Brecht and you’re Artaud.

M: (silence)

S: Simon evens it up, chalk it up.

M: …Fair call.

S: I did love a lot of the elements. I couldn’t stop talking about the video, and there were times when they made me feel absolutely horrible, some of which we’ve already discussed. David Williams and Jane Phegan have two of the most beautiful voices you’ll ever hear and I could listen to them talk in official tones for hours. But most of what I will take away from this production is theatrical, and with Version 1.0 I had hoped I would leave more affected by their politics.

M: Hmmmm. Maybe. I still think they nailed a cultural treatment of violence, and they nailed that through the theatrical elements, not despite them.

S: Indeed.

M: I guess we leave it at one all.

Simon Binns and Mark Rogers


Lily said...

"It seemed to me like the material was made for an audience that wouldn’t ever attend a Version 1.0 show. I didn’t see any football colours in the crowd."

I went on Thursday and during the questions afterwards they said that comment had been made to them early in their process. The rebuttal was that this is not an
issue only prevalent in the sporting community and given how widespread it is that it is ignorant to think that the artistic community (I dislike using this term but can't find a better one at the moment) is apart from it. One of their examples was Matthew Newton.

Though there were a large amount of sporting references and motifs I never felt that was the context of the piece.

Mark Rogers said...

I agree lily. It was about an over arching attitude. Not simply one groups treatment. The sporting references were an apt metaphor for this larger attitude. One could also make reference to alchohol, club culture,today tonight and a current affair. And various other motifs they used to explore the contemporary Australian violence issue.

Matthew Newton is a killer example of how deep this attitude runs, even to the apparently spotless world of arts.

Simon Binns said...

I felt that the play was pretty much based in the sporting world from the start. They began with a cheerleading reference, the middle sections were punctuated by the training sessions, there were half time oranges, and the show ended with a footy show reference.

That being said, I think the personal nature of the show transcended these reference points.

Holly said...

I have to agree with - and quote - Simon on this one. Although I thought it was a very enjoyable and well crafted piece of performance I just don't feel like the "meat" made it onto the stage.
Perhaps it's because I have a background in domestic violence (my father has worked in the area for as long as I can remember).
I just don't think, nor feel, that enough was actually affected with this performance.
Usually I wouldn't mind if all it was was a strong piece of theatre but they picked such a contentious and visible topic and I just don't think they did it justice.

I really did appreciate being there for the questions and hearing just how much work they did on the theoretical and intellectual side, I'm just sad that I didn't see any of that on stage.

Nathan said...

For me all the sporting references were making reference to that culture, but also connecting the idea of violence with sport as an activity rather than a cultural thing. Sport conjures up a lot of ideas of energy and emotions like anger and loyalty that I think can often be attributed to violence in the same way. So for me it was an image thing as much as a cultural reference point.
In terms of there being a lack of hard information on stage, I agree with Mark that this was a show about attitudes - where Deeply Offensive was trying to expose unknown facts, this was just trying to bring up and explore attitudes. And for that I think it worked. I don't think the show would have been very interesting at all if it were loaded with facts and figures; that would have made it preachy and stale. Instead the show showed us how close these attitudes are to us - from the stories taking place on Enmore road, half a dozen blocks from Carriageworks, to the conversations and gestures that we recognise being pushed to offensive limits (eg. Arky's shoulders).
Also, the cyclic nature of the show I thought worked fantastically. The return to and evolution of images was great.