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Instrusions and confessions

Keith Gallasch

Lara Thom, Suspect Lara Thom, Suspect
photo Heidrun Löhr
PACT Youth Theatre’s Suspect vividly places the surveillance issue in the bigger context of a voyeuristic, Reality TV culture, but at the same time draws stark parallels with more familiar intrusions by peeping toms, stalkers, policemen, private detectives and bureaucrat interrogators. Here surveillance can turn transmute to murder and disappearance. New technologies of surveillance appear at times to be mere extensions of some nasty human impulses. The wide stage, multi-level design populated with video monitors, systems operators and the perpetrators and victims of surveillance generates a density of the surveillance experience with a range of comment and many opportunities for a well-trained, large cast.

Even so, not all the characters are realised with the same attention to detail and theme, iconic figures (like the film noir femme fatale) don’t connect, some performance images seem to be repeats from PACT’s previous show Song of Ghosts without rationale, and the final sequence where the whole cast line up to reveal what’s been been surveilled of their lives is unrevealing. There is no sense in the finale of intimate detail, whether real or fictional, of the pain of being opened out to a prying world. The mechanical performance conceit sits oddly beside the angst and raw humour played out in the first part of Suspect. And the suggestion that we the audience were part of this surveillance process was not convincing. Direction and most performances are strong, as we’ve come to expect from PACT. They’ve set their benchmark high, but here the focus on types undercuts the power of the surveillance theme except where an idiosyncratic persona is realised, as in the case of the ‘dog lady’, where we witness her loss and its impact, not naturalistically played but surreally embodied.

In the latest Breathing Space program (an enterprising collaboration involving Performance Space, PICA and Arnoflini, UK), Dan Belasco Rogers’ (UK) solo performative lecture, Unfallen, was a delight. He has a curious aesthetic and thematic kinship with the late Spalding Gray if with none of Gray’s seductive poetic musicality. But the melding of personal anxieties with larger speculations and the calculated shaping of revelations are familiar, though very different in tone and effect with Belasco Roger’s quiet, hesitant delivery. Synchronicities of mapping (he uses projections of overlaid city maps to reveal disturbing conjunctions) and of accidents (with a touch of Gray’s almost superstitious fatalism) suggest a universe as dangerous and sometimes as funny as Douglas Adams’, but more worrying. On the same program it was good to see the return of Martin del Amo’s Unsealed (RT 61, p47) confirming the work’s distinctive power. As a quite lateral exploration of self and a career fantasy it was an ideal companion piece for Belasco Roger’s reverie on destiny.

PACT Youth Theatre, imPACT Ensemble, Suspect, directors Regina Heilmann, Chris Murphy, design Kate Shanahan, video Sean Bacon, music/sound Nik Wishart; PACT, Dec 2-12, 2004

Breathing Space: Unfallen, Dan Belasco Rogers; Unsealed, Martin del Amo; Performance Space, Nov 25-27, 2004

RealTime issue #65 Feb-March 2005 pg. 38

© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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