Review: Project #Oüahn (Baühs)

bauhsVenue: 46 Foveaux Street (Surry Hills NSW), Oct 21 – 26, 2015
Playwrights: Gabriella Imrich, Christina Marks, Eliza Scott
Director: Christina Marks
Cast: Gabriella Imrich, Eliza Scott
Image by Diana Popovska

Theatre review
On stage are two young women, best described as anxious and frustrated. They speak in symbols, and their art is abstract. What they do is rarely explicitly named, perhaps to avoid things becoming undermined by convenient labels that can never completely address their thoughts. Instead, what we have is a series of physical and verbal enunciations that provide unmistakeable visceral sensations and clear indications about the way we experience our bodies, the construction of identities, and the political forces that dominate and disenfranchise. Project #Oüahn is a subversive work about subversion. The work aims to challenge, and because of our inevitable participation in prevalent ideologies, we do find ourselves in uncomfortable spaces in its 60-minute duration. It is hard to tell if the piece communicates universally, but its intention is not to create an “us and them” dynamic with its microcosm. There are moments of division, but its interest is ultimately about self-determination and self-empowerment. Its message is one of independence, but also of love, even if much of its language is militant and tough.

We do not find a conventional narrative structure, but the two actors Gabriella Imrich and Eliza Scott begin by setting up a visual reference to the madonna-whore complex. Their surfaces appear to be different as day and night, but as they wage war and undertake torment on each other, we soon discover that they are two of the same. It is a representation of the internal dialogues that we have and the socially complicit nature of how we monitor and police our own thoughts and behaviour. There is a precision to the performers’ motivations, that makes sense of the work’s abstractions in spite of their deliberate ambiguity. Chemistry between Imrich and Scott is flawless, and the production forges ahead with a confidence that is assertive and powerfully convincing. Christina Marks’ direction balances mystery and revelation, for a show that intrigues at every point, but is satisfying throughout. Sound design by Enola Gay is to be noted for adding a sophisticated yet dramatic dimension to proceedings.

The final section of the production is as memorable as any theatrical moment can hope to be. A mesmerising sequence that expresses divine beauty and tranquil strength, embodying an affirmation of life, lived with wisdom and courage. The art that we make is never worth more than when it is progressive. Project #Oüahn is a selfless exploration into the meaning of freedom that will touch anyone whom it is able to connect with, but freedom, like all that is worthwhile, will only discharge its magical prowess for those who know to receive it.

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