Review by Fury
If Captured Whispers were running again, I would attend as many times as possible as there was so much in each performance that I’m sure I missed 90% of what was going on.
Andy Jackson’s work was to do with the loss of his father and the exploration of selfhood. With a tiny, puppet version of himself perched on a suitcase, he read about his father. What stuck with me was the longing in the poem – particularly for touch and embrace.
One of my most loved aspects of puppetry is being able to play with scale and pushing how far the audience will forgive the surrealism of a piece. Jackson’s work particularly hit the mark in the moments when there was a gaze held between Jackson and the puppet. It was as though he were looking at himself; as though he were his father and the puppet, him or perhaps as though he was in a mirrored hallway and he become recursive.
I really liked Terence Jaensch’s poem worked with Eliza Jane Gilchrist. Upon entering the venue, the audience was given a small package with the poem on the back and told not to open it. During the performance, the poem was read three times. Once, quickly. Then, we were instructed to open the package and inside was the poem performance was through several items – a Rochester blot eye mask, some alphabet pasta, an emergency landing card with the phrase “I’m trying to lift love, I am trying”, and a bent plastic spoon.
Call me old fashioned* but bribery always pleases me. I very much liked the poetry party bag. I think the main selling point for this piece, however, was the overwhelm of emotion on the third reading. Jaensch explained that he was an orphan and the closest person he had to a mother had died a couple of days before the launch of the book that included this poem. As such, the poem is permanently entwined with that grief and it was really intense to experience that in the final reading.
Barry Dickens and Rod Primrose worked a piece about caring for a parent with dementia. A headless coat puppet came and sat on a bowl of weetbix and rocked back and forth in what can only be described as damned creepy. The poem itself was equally unsettling as it felt like the protagonist was being pushed to the edge through the relationship with his disintegrating mother.
Jennifer Harrison and Victoria Osborne’s piece had one of the most incredible works of puppetry design. The poem was spoken then repeated in a whisper, line by line. It had the audience entranced as it described a sleeping couple. One of the couple left their body and floated above it. The poem was mirrored by two puppets in the bed and a giant, glowing puppet hovering over them.
The glowing puppet was really technically phenomenal. It’s front looked like it had been weaved with leather and in every gap of weave there was a tiny LED light. It gave the effect of icy blue stars or a glinting night time cityscape.
Last but certainly not least, was Lia Incognita working with Beth McMahon and Michael Bevitt. I must profess I am already a fan of Incognita’s work. With that in mind, I will try to veer away from the sycophantic.
Lia’s work was part light show, part projection, part experimental theatre that weirdly made me think of Six Characters In Search of An Author. As Incognita read, figures appeared from behind a box full of light. At the beginning of the poem, one of them appeared with a string in her mouth that pulled up and down a sheer sheeting covering the projector-light-box. The image projected on a box was an expanding and retracting circle of light. Next to it, Incognita opened and closed her mouth as though yawning, stretching her lips for vocal practice or silently screaming.
The poem was about identity and language; about rift and formation of self through speech. It was part in Shanghainese and part English. The nature of translation is that one works to bring meaning, understanding and connection to the other but in doing so it, itself, becomes a little decimated, reduced or changed. While a lot of the projection was moving patterns, I found the combination of translation with images of floating, almost dismembered, pixelated limbs being projected onto the light box really striking.
Honestly, I feel a little bit bad about writing this review. There was only one performance and that’s pretty tough luck for those of you who missed it. The upside, I suppose, is that it’s safe to advise that any interested reader take down the name of everyone on the bill and watch out for them in future.
*Call me the justice system, the Murdoch media, the Liberals and Labour. Call me weak willed, capitalistic or materialistic. All of these things are all of these things.