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Beguiled: A performance installation experience


BEGUILED: A performance installation experience by the PACT ENSEMBLE 2011, at the PACT THEATRE, Erskineville.

A young group of emerging artists: Taryn Brine,Kate Brown, Madison Chippendale, Cameron Ellis, Sam Koh, Annabelle McMillan, Lucille Lehr, Tanya Thaweeskulchai, Emma White and Amber Cox under the direction of Cat Jones & Julie Vulcan have created an ambulatory, interactive experience, entitled BEGUILED.

They ask us, the audience to CHOOSE TO BE LOST, CHOOSE TO BELIEVE. They state, “We share a universal drive to believe in the potential of magic, a desire to explain the inexplicable, to overcome the impossible, to achieve our destiny.”

They begin this work in the foyer where, with the only text of the night,  we are encouraged by an extravagantly costumed and bewigged host, to surrender our self to their devices. We close our eyes , we listen to what  they suggest is the soundtrack of the explosion of the usual theatrical space anticipation (not very convincing on tinny speakers) and are individually given a rock to hold, maybe as a talismanic key to the freeing of ourselves to what is to come. Hold onto it, as I did, and you might be BEGUILED.

The doors squeak open to the interior theatre space and we are greeted by four twitching figures of danced activity and then siphoned off into groups to journey through a series of visual installations (as with the recent BARGAIN GARDEN, the organisation of the audience to give all a view has not been really thought through, and so the affect of the performance will be considerably coloured by your ability or inability to see and hear the installations well enough). They are variously interesting, puzzling, cute or dull and the stroking of one’s talisman does not always influence one to an immersive state of delusion/illusion, for the artful tactics of the ensemble are oddly familiar, derivative in their conception and primitive (naive) in their execution. A little too text book guided and so lacking real invention or any profound original point of observation. There is no surprise, challenge or confrontation. This magic is not magic enough, there is nothing too inexplicable going on to strike one into a paralysed state of excitement. One’s destiny will not be too altered by this event.

On the other hand, what one does have, is a curious night in possibly another way of experiencing theatre, as an interactive engagement, as a tool for life informing enhancement that is not often explored in Sydney. With deeper cultural confrontation and more daring or sophisticated means of engaging the audience, this young emerging ensemble could develop into a company as provocative and thrilling as La Fura dels Baus (e.g. SUZ/O/SUZ) or the company visiting here as part of the Sydney Festival in 2009, Ontroerend Goed (e.g.THE SMILE OFF YOUR FACE).

If you are unfamiliar with the above companies or works, or even if you are, BEGUILED is an interesting fledgling ‘toe in the water’ journey. Dress comfortably and hold tight to your rock and you might have a chance to believe and become lost (safely). Without any sense of condescension,here is a young company to look forward to, to see if there is going to be development.

BEGUILED is well done but the content is a little too tame and too self consciously aware of its form as a challenge to the so called mainstream museum theatre experience.

On the other hand,or, is it foot now, I held onto my rock and I have it on my shelf  here at home to take hold of when I want to be lost and choose to believe in other possibilities …Hmm.