WELCOME SPECTACLE BUT COMEDY FALLS SHORT
NZ Fringe Festival 2013|
IN AND OUT OF CONTEXT
By Cally O’Neill, Tanya Drewery, Phoebe Smith
Directed by Deborah Pope
Produced by Cally O’Neill
CO OP Co-operative Ltd
at Cuba Mall, just north of Left Bank, Wellington
From 28 Feb 2013 to 9 Mar 2013
Reviewed by Fiona McNamara, 1 Mar 2013
In and Out of Context describes itself as “an interruption to the daily narrative [...] Multi-disciplinary circus, theatre, comedy, dance, costume, installation, an original sound track and live music are tools to re-contextualise the urban environment and pose questions around some pre-conceived notions.”
The performers work hard and the spectacle they create – with their energetic performances, a large ladder with trapeze, loud music and bright lights – draws crowds in Cuba Mall; and some local dwellers even sit on their balconies to watch from above. It is indeed an interruption to daily narrative, and the people who chance upon it seem ready.
It's great to see so much outdoor, free and spectacle performance this Fringe. The best kind of festival is one that the whole city knows is on. Performance that is accessible to everyone, in that it is free, casual (you can talk during it and show up and leave when you want to) is a great way to include large numbers.
CO-OP Cooperative attempts to take this further by inviting us to “be part of an installation... We will provide the sensory splendour and delicious food for thought.” Unfortunately, beyond the ease of its accessibility, I didn't feel part of the performance, nor did I have much of a sensory experience. Audience participation is touched on, but the performers seem almost afraid to be open to its possibilities.
There was one attempt to bring an audience member on stage as an ‘assistant' in a short scene, but it felt token and awkward... as if the performers hadn't thought through what to do with him once he was there. Towards the end, they call into the microphone to us “If you would like to see more public art, say Yeah!” but instead of listening to the audience response, they shout “YEAH” into the microphone themselves... drowning out the calls (or silence) of the audience.
Overall, it is the circus and spectacle that draws the crowds, while the theatre and comedy fall flat. The ideas behind this performance are better than the work itself: the performers spend a lot of time telling us the premise, often double or triple-percussively, rather than developing it through the performance.
There are several points at which they perform an idea, but feel the need to tell us what they are doing, just in case we couldn't work it out ourselves. Towards the end, for example, the performers reveal words on their clothing – “Public” on one, and “Art” on the other – then, just in case we still haven't got it, they say into the microphone, “Ladies and gentlemen, you are experiencing public art!”
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