21/08/2020 - 25/08/2020

Nelson Fringe Festival 2020

Production Details

Venetian Obscura plays out through an array of blinds, costumes and props to create filmic clips unfolding over the course of 25 minutes.

Three vignettes reveal intriguing tales of local importance. The story steps from the page through three characters who play before a special black and white 2D roomscape.

Finale Music – “The Ship Song” by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Other Music – Bach (sourced from Wikimedia)

Note: This show has been filmed at NCMA adhering to Level 2 protocols, and will be presented online.

Available online from the 21st to the 25th of August

Get a Virtual Fringe Pass

Webcast , Theatre ,

25 mins

Abstract, creative and passionately devoted

Review by Daniel Allan 25th Aug 2020

A great appeal of the Nelson Fringe from year to year is the way it consistently serves up at least one completely unexpected and often surreal performance experience, the likes of which Nelson rarely gets the chance to experience. My body has an involuntary reaction to these shows. I sit lower in my chair, my neck cranes forward and this inane grin comes over my face.

Venetian Obscura is that show for me this year, and certainly a contender for the honour that has served to champion such delights: The Edgiest Show award.

The write-up promises “blinds, costumes, and filmic clips to reveal … tales of local importance” and to my delight, I soon realise that the ‘local’ referenced is a somewhat honorary title for someone who never set foot in these isles: none other than Nelson’s lover; the utterly fascinating Lady Emma Hamilton.

A rough biography of her life is depicted in the form of slow and deliberate vignettes, where symbolic acting poses are interspersed with papery art works; both prepared drawings, and in situ origami creations. There is a striking palette of black, white, and blue. 

As a biography of Hamilton, the show is light on details. I am none the wiser to the specific chapters of Hamilton’s life than I would have been from a cursory glance over a Wikipedia article. Theatre practitioners too, may find fault in aspects of the energetic and spatial performance. This should, however, not be categorised as theatre, nor straight biography, but as a piece of performance art and, as such, I am moved to say it is a success.

It takes its subject out from behind the blinds and into public view, setting her apart as something separate to the centralised man of the patriarchal stories. Moreover, three fashion artists, moved by the originator of mimoplastic art, have created something utterly unique and in line with what the subject would have enjoyed making herself. Art for art’s sake; abstract, creative and passionately devoted.

The move onto a digital platform has certainly been challenging for performers, and it is rare for something that is designed to be delivered live to capture the magic on screen, without multiple cameras and a dedicated team of editors. That said, a couple of shows on the online platform seem to have benefitted from the move to a filmed experience, and Venetian Obscura is one.

Intertitles that would have been visible only as small signs at the side of the stage are able to be cut in, so too are the hand-drawn portraits of the men in Emma’s life. Putting it all together with the two-dimensionality, and the pervasive Bach soundtrack – again, non-diagetic – there is a style that is reminiscent of both Georges Melies and Peter Greenaway. 

I commend the creators of Venetian Obscura for embracing the Fringe ethos and exploring this worthy subject in a fittingly obscure way. 

[Today – 25 August – is the last you can find shows on]


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