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Falling Woman

Performance Space presents FALLING WOMAN, Created by Alice Osborne and Halcyon Macleod, at Carriageworks, Track 8. 26 – 29 November, 2014.

FALLING WOMAN is a new Australian play with an idea initiated, devised and performed by Alice Osborne, written and directed by Halcyon Macleod. The text is a voiceover of, for most of the time, a highly poetic odyssey – recently, Ms Macleod’s work at Campbelltown Arts Centre: MANTLE, also featured this kind of radio-play conceit (think Radio National’s, Poetica) – however, in this case it features a disembodied voice with, also, live microphone interpolations from The Woman (Alice Osborne), and a mysterious figure (Regina Heilmann, also, co-deviser), who is variously a witness, an avatar, alter-ego and provocateur.

The Directed motivating image of the play, is of a Woman sitting on a domestic, white, kitchen chair. An expected image of a woman’s role (perhaps?). Looking closely, however, this chair has only three legs and for this normal domestic image to be attained, maintained, the Woman must, complicatedly, support it – it requires some distracting physical energy to appear normal – she is disabled in some of her capacity to function as the Normal Woman, as her self. This Woman’s effort, becomes a gradual awakening to an instinctive warning of some kind, a warning felt by “the brain in the gut” that this domestic image is not her true self, it does not belong to this Woman. And, no matter how The Woman attempts to accommodate the ‘expected’ image, the subterranean warning, the feeling of falling, can not be, ultimately, ignored, and so, she begins a journey.

It is typical of Ms Macleod’s writing that the scene is immersed in a country setting and so it is here. This Woman, with a creative alter-ego, a Witness, sensing that there is an under-utilised part of herself sets about the task of unlocking the mythic inside (her) domestic expectancy:

And so this other life, this secret happier
self she is leaning towards but never
quite touching, never quite becoming.
A woman circles herself.
She catches glimpses of her own face in
the revolving door of a department store
and doesn’t recognise it.
She imagines a face more fully her own,
a keener eye, a mouth more savage,
she knows what this face looks like
splattered with blood from the kill…

On a huge double space in Track 8 at Carriageworks, separated front and back by a large scrim, that has film and photographed images projected upon it, with, sometimes, an added set of images, projected onto the back wall, with a net of chairs hanging in the air, and other paraphernalia (puppetry) scattered around the spaces, physically and vocally, this Woman is led into a labyrinth of personal complexities, including that, by the way, of a repeated unsatisfactory, unpleasant investigation of the sensation she has experienced with the “normal” sexual relationships she has with the Male in her life.

The visuals and design by Samuel James are beautiful, but dense, often seeming to shimmer with glimmerings of the “gothic”, providing many absorbing puzzles for the audience to discern. Add to this stimulus, for the audience, the movement/dance posturing of the two performers (Ms Heilmann overtly projecting a regal and sinisterly dominant persona/presence), and the ornate verbal exchanges from all three (Woman, Witness and disembodied voice), plus a complex composed score played live by Phil Downing, I felt a touch overloaded with ‘material’ to absorb, to try to decipher. There was just too much offered, by the Artists, all at once, to be able, in the experience of the work, to appreciate what was going on. One wanted a rest, time to collect oneself, to catch-up to the information and ‘compute’.

Frustration born out of confusion in the proliferation of the artistry hampered my ability to sustain interest – I gave up, I became disaffected, ultimately bemused, in the theatre. I longed for it to end. Editing, simplifying is needed. Or, I simply need to make more effort. Maybe, this production is just too far ahead of my aesthetic capabilities to find a secure path of intellectual grounding, to keep my focused absorption, to keep myself, arrested. Which one? Over the course of this performance, I developed no empathetic interest in this Falling Woman.

Initially interesting, beautiful in its individual artistic offers, they have not been assimilated into a sensible, comprehensible whole, as yet. As with MANTLE – which also involved Ms Macleod, Claire Britton and Bridget Dolan from My Darling Patricia, there is so much provocation going on, that FALLING WOMAN, felt in need of more time. to simplify the art of it all. As of yet, it is too much like a work-in-progress than a finished piece.

Hopefully, we shall see it again.