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ary-Helen Sassman, Pier Carthew, Salome In Cogito Volume III ary-Helen Sassman, Pier Carthew, Salome In Cogito Volume III
photo Brett Boardman
PERFORMANCE ENSEMBLE THE RABBLE REFERENCE ITALIAN THEATRE DIRECTOR ROMEO CASTELLUCCI AS AN INSPIRATION FOR THEIR INTERPRETIVE SALOME IN COGITO VOLUME III. CASTELLUCCI IS WELL KNOWN FOR HIS EPIC THEATRICAL IMAGINATION AND INVESTIGATION OF FORMAL TRAGEDY ACROSS EUROPEAN CITYSCAPES. INDEED IN THE TRAGEDIA ENDOGONIDIA SERIES, SEEN IN PART IN THE 2006 MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL, CASTELLUCCI DEMONSTRATES A MASTERFUL POST-DRAMATIC POETIC, PRIVILEGING SENSORY AND AFFECTIVE IMAGES AMIDST THE ARRHYTHMIC DRAMATURGIES AND DISPLACED SIGNIFIERS OF BROKEN PLACES. A BABY APPEARS ON STAGE. IT COOS. AN OLD MAN IN A BIKINI. HE UNDRESSES. A POOL OF BLOOD SPURTS FROM A BOTTLE. A POLICE BASHING. EXCRUCIATING LOUDNESS. A CITY UNRAVELS.

Salome In Cogito Volume III reads as an awkward homage to Castellucci and yet still offers much to be praised by way of its own striking visual and dramatic innovation. In particular there is the dramaturgical compulsion to sustain and release images in just the right breath, set alongside gurgling sound pulses that patter or strike the space along with sequences of flashing, horizontal light. The space itself deserves applause for its intense grandiosity: this cavernous theatre at the CarriageWorks has never been opened up in quite this way. Tall, bold columns and angry doors flank a cold and sinister marbled court. It seems we are in the domain of European aristocracy, save the ominous oversized above-ground pool and the unavoidable sense that the marble is actually its poorer cousin, linoleum, rippling in disguise.

The performers inhabit this space with fragments of repetitive action, guttural noise, durational acts, slow walking, vomit, jelly for blood, fake blood, spurting blood, flour, rancid cream, acts of bestiality and other theatrical pornographics that aim to poetically render Salome as a contemporary cultural narrative. The biblical figure of Salome, step-daughter to Herod and daughter to his incestuous wife Herodias, has come to represent the ultimate horror story of the power of female seduction. Granted a wish by Herod, Salome requests John the Baptist’s head in order to redeem the reputation of her besmirched mother. Oscar Wilde adapted this tale, giving some oomph to Salome’s motivation: her affections for John were rejected and so she had him promptly disposed of. Out of this we understand that Salome represents rottenness itself. The Rabble aren’t about to redeem her.

Salome and the court spend the evening hungering, it seems, for death, each other, sex, more death, food and blood. They each emit a signature breathy pant that at first iteration is interesting but quickly loses effect as we fail to understand what is so desperately desired, save the act of performing desire itself. In gothic bride white, Salome haunts the court with acts of indiscretion: a complex scientific experiment with meat off-cuts produces some sacred drinking juice; a game of chase is repeated but never resolved. Meantime, King and Queen ponce about the emptiness of their political wasteland and a dog figure belches and swerves, chained by a bungy rope to a pylon from which she can strangely self-release. Upstage, John the Baptist is made a minuscule specimen, framed in the warm, seedy light of a perspex display cabinet. We all know what is coming for him—it’s just a matter of time. And how.

Salome In Cogito Volume III is an admirable take on the breadth of postdramatic poetics, if perhaps a less interesting take on the thematics of Salome the Biblical tale or Wilde’s among many others. This is its biggest weakness, but hopefully the production bodes well for The Rabble’s future experiments. For Castellucci, tragedy is “a mechanism to expose the dead body.” The Rabble are working very well on the mechanism, but what they want it to expose is less clear.


The Rabble, Salome In Cogito Volume III, director Emma Valente, performers Mary Helen Sassman, Daniel Schlusser, Syd Brisbane, Pier Carthew, Dana Miltins, design Kate Davis, dramaturg Daisy Noyes, lighting Emma Valente, sound design Max Lyandvert; CarriageWorks, Sydney, May 7-17

RealTime issue #85 June-July 2008 pg. 37

© Bryoni Trezise; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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