Review: Artslab: Body Of Work (Shopfront Arts Co-op)

Venue: 107 (Redfern NSW), Mar 22 – Apr 2, 2023
Images by Clare Hawley

Playwright/Director/Cast: Flynn Mapplebeck

Under The Influence
Playwrights: Ana Fenner, Amelia Gilday
Director: Amelia Gilday
Cast: Ana Fenner

Playwrights: Lu Bradshaw, Mina Bradshaw
Mina Bradshaw
Cast: Michael Ho, Jessica Melchert, Bailey Tanks, Sophie Florence Ward

Theatre review

In Quadrants, grownup single child¬†Flynn Mapplebeck recounts his days in lockdown, and connects those experiences with other memories of loneliness. It is a work of great idiosyncrasy, with Mapplebeck’s easy charm sustaining our attention effortlessly through the¬† duration. A slideshow features prominently in the humorous presentation, along with exhilarating music, both adding substantively to the richness of Mapplebeck’s whimsical show. Quadrants communicates with a distinct blitheness, but speaks volumes between the lines, about the state of our social disconnectedness.

Ana Fenner and Amelia Gilday explore in Under the Influence, the frustrations of a woman as she embarks on the journey of gender transition. Fenner is sole performer of the piece, working intimately with live and recorded video projections that represent effectively, the entanglements of self identification with our culture of pervasive digital imagery. A memorable segment involving physical endurance, reveals both Fenner’s dedication and despair, in a work that looks to be an autobiographical expression of a transgender experience in the current epoch.

Lu and Mina Bradshaw take us to the absurd world of wellness, in their hilarious farce Zest, set in an expensive retreat, where individuals unravel over several weeks, in hopes of attaining some imagined condition of enlightenment. Directed by Mina Bradshaw, Zest delivers genuine hilarity, and big belly laughs, through its scathing parodies of ignorant devotees and their desperation, as they are put through the wringer, of commodified torment. An excellent cast of four, Michael Ho, Jessica Melchert, Bailey Tanks and Sophie Florence Ward, depict with mock earnestness and biting sarcasm, the comical but brutal deterioration taking place at the glorified camp. We watch well-meaning people act in stupid ways, gleefully snickering from our position of sanctimony, but also aware of the very fine lines that separate us from them.

There is a commonality between the three presentations, that relate to the very real human feeling of inadequacy. It seems that deeply entrenched in Australian life, is our constant submission to this interminable sentiment of feeling not enough. There is something in our history of European colonialism, and in the forms of patriarchy and capitalism that have taken hold subsequently, that require of us, this ubiquitous need to always prove ourselves to be better, that what we have and who we are, is always deficient.

It is a mechanism of subjugation, so that we permit others to forever have dominance over us, so that sovereignty over our lives is never to be claimed by the self. It should not be radical or anarchic to love oneself unconditionally, but it seems that thinking that there is nothing wrong with the self, and that all the faults are with systems one has no choice but to operate under, is the most revolutionary of all the paths to mindful transformation.