|Natalie Rose, Zoe Coombs Marr, Mish Grigor, Everything I Know About the Global Financial Crisis in One Hour, Post|
photo Heidrun Löhr
Even if you didn’t feel the impact of the Global Financial Collapse in the pocket (a welcome $900 cheque from Prime Minister Rudd aside) you doubtless spent time anxiously wondering what had actually happened and would it recur in the shape of a much anticipated vicious double dip recession.
Nervous times yielded countless articles, broadcasts and books providing analyses simple and complex of the Global Finance Collapse. Some have been reassuring—providing a clear chain of cause and effect running from bad economic theory to market deregulation to failed governance and downright corruption. Others have revealed more worrying networks of disturbance, from unrelated one-off criminal acts (Bernie Madoff, a handy villain) to globalisation’s maximisation of the GFC’s impact, from American Republican and Australian Liberal politicians arguing for brutal economic clean-slating instead of stimulus packages to Detroit’s motor industry tsars driving cars to Washington’s Senate Enquiry and all of us having to grasp the reality that the USA was in substantial debt to China. The world had truly turned upside-down.
How can art assist in a time of paranoia and breathtaking absolutism? Belvoir’s B Sharp, in one of its last acts, brought relief and enlightenment in the form of A Distressing Scenario, a double bill from Sydney performance companies Post and version 1.0.
Of the two performances, Post’s Everything I Know About the Global Financial Crisis in One Hour, more effectively conveyed the aforementioned sense of delirium with a virtuosic stringing together of unlikely causes and effects, the semi-lecture format reinforced with bizarre chalkboarding (the board itself revealing ever new extensions) and interrupted with manic dancing, the waving of sparklers and the positioning of champagne bottles in readiness for the ultimate release.
The experience was like having the GFC explained to us by the ill-read, the ill-informed and the plain ill—the bandaged performers presented variously as victims of car accident, tonsilitis, cocaine addiction and pregnancy, all impediments to putting their show together. Undaunted, the Post trio launched into an elaborate and diffuse explanation of the GFC replete with muddled and inaccurate historical grabs and bizarre connections altogether reminiscent of paranoid popular media. An exhausting whirligig of associations dated GFC origins back to Rockefeller, the corn market, popcorn and the decline of the cinema, the 1988 Australian Bicentennial and Bette Midler tours as positive market indicators. These were accompanied by wild speculations about the value of training monkeys in universities and why there are no jaws of death for newsagents. The sheer, manic drive of the performance, its bracing informality, the self-belief, its mad poetry and smatterings of GFC-reality sucked an initially wary audience into a vortex of nigh impossibly suspended disbelief.
Everything I Know...was durational in every sense, for the courageous performers, sometimes perilously over-taxed, and for an audience riding the wild waves of free association, coursing the looping illogic and withstanding the recurrent, battering dance passages and the final champagne spray. With wicked ease, but little to celebrate as bankers and brokers clawed back their bonuses, Post left us nonetheless wiser about the way the human brain miscalculates and rationalises its way into disasters of the order of the GFC.
After the brief respite of intermission and anticipating further assault, we were bemused to find ourselves removed from Post’s compulsive cosmos and relocated to the parallel universe of version 1.0’s The Market is Not Functioning Properly. Same Big Bang—the GFC; same problems—how to comprehend and survive economic disaster; similar symptoms—faltering rationality and increasing delirium. The Market’s performers also, like Post, reveal themselves to be performers (“I’m an artist: no finances to speak of,” declares one).
But the Post and version 1.0 universes travel in opposite directions. Instead of the desperate, gutsy vigour of Everything I Know, The Market is neat, tautly framed, carefully paced. Two genteel women (Jane Phegan, Kim Vercoe) in pearls and satin gowns appear to parody themselves and then, more archly, middle-class womanhood as they grapple with the GFC and their domestic budgets (laid out on laminated cards that threaten to slip from their grasp). If Post are wildly mock educational, version 1.0 are calculatedly didactic. The women puzzle and bicker informatively beneath three screens inhabited by unreassuring world leaders, all men, alternating with three Australians, also men, with very little to say about the GFC.
As finances and life become less manageable (cut back on wine, on Belvoir tickets), the women strike poses of fright before the images of these men (the powerful and the ‘ordinary’ at times superimposed), dance awkwardly, swing together in violent circles, teeter on the edge of the raised stage and, finally, spew champagne into buckets hanging immediately before us. But they might as well have gone to pieces on another planet from our own. We could recognise the symptoms of their GFC-induced malaise but where was the rich, cranky substance of appalling cause and effect that we have come to associate with version 1.0? The Market was a surprisingly tame affair for a company whose major works have surreally and satirically brought to light the frightening deployment of power in politics, media and gender relations—revealing that the irrationalities and manipulation involved don’t have to be exaggerated, but reframed in order to be seen. Version 1.0 have set their benchmark very high and we expect a lot, not least the means with which to do battle with the insidious GFC.
B Sharp, A Distressing Scenario: Post, Everything I Know About the Global Financial Crisis in One Hour, deviser-performers Zoe Coombs Marr, Mish Grigor, Natalie Rose; version 1.0, The Market is Not Functioning Properly, deviser-performers Jane Phegan, Kym Vercoe, director David Williams, video artist Sean Bacon, sound Paul Prestipino, lighting Frank Mainoo; Belvoir St Theatre, Sydney, Nov 25-Dec 19
RealTime issue #101 Feb-March 2011 pg. 45
© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to firstname.lastname@example.org