Review: Fragments Of I Am: 18 Scenes & A Song (The Nest)

fragmentsVenue: The Nest (Alexandria NSW), Aug 7 – 9, 2014
Devisers: Ryan Carter, Jes Dalton, Hayley Sullivan, Sam Trotman
Cast: Ryan Carter, Jes Dalton, Hayley Sullivan, Sam Trotman

Theatre review
A narrative requires a sense of coherence, and coherence can in turn, be subjective. Fragments of I Am: 18 Scenes & A Song is an experimental work without a clear overarching story, but what its three performers portray over nineteen scenes can be construed as something that forms a persuasive whole. There is nothing to prevent us from interpreting each performer’s work as singular characters, but we can also think of them acting in altogether different roles at each appearance, considering the drastic transformations that can happen from one moment to another. On this experimental stage, we are free to choose how we read, and what we deem to be relevant would probably be based on personal judgments, although it is noteworthy that in the freedom of form explored here, nothing is wrong and everything is right, no matter what approach we choose.

There is a lot of anxiety in the piece. The artists’ youthful need to explore meanings in life and art contains a sense of urgency and desperation that makes for thoughtful theatre as well as satisfying entertainment. Their interest in boundaries, confines and limits ensures an expression that feels fresh and creative, although the sense of transgression that one expects from such themes is slightly tame in this production. We anticipate something more in the vein of Gina Pane and Marina Abramović’s legacies but they never venture that far, perhaps this is where theatre and performance art diverge. We are impressed however, by the unorthodox warehouse-like venue they have chosen, and their barely-there wardrobe on the occasion of Sydney’s chilliest winter nights.

The cast’s execution of their own text and ideas is quietly accomplished. There is a sense of ease to the team’s presentation that results from having established clearly what they wish to achieve but their show feels strangely subdued. There is a wildness that feels too contained, although their depiction of mundanity is beautifully manipulated to look bizarre and alienated. The ordinariness of daily life is brought into question, and we are encouraged to examine our concepts of normality with a new distrust for things that are usually axiomatic.

The work is concerned with violence and human connection. Permeating all the action is a sense of loneliness that often results in brutality of some description. To make the statement that we are a species characterised by self-destruction is grim but honest. Asserting that our modern inhumanity comes from an inability to understand one another, is poignant and powerful.