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ten days on the island

dream masons: watery transformations

bec tudor

Bec Tudor is a writer and researcher based in Hobart. Her interests include fine art, philosophy, environmental thought, education and community.

Dream Masons Dream Masons
photo Michael Rayner
The highly ambitious production, Dream Masons, has been promoted as a headlining event in this year’s Ten Days on the Island calendar. Curiosity was roused as soon as the historic façade of the Salamanca Arts Centre began transforming weeks ago. Scaffolding, balconies, ladders, ledges and enormous drainpipes have been erected across several shop frontages, up four storeys and over Kelly’s Steps laneway, to form the set for this timeless tale of an apartment block, its inhabitants and their relationships with water.

There is the unlucky fisherman, the sailor and his lover, a landlady who hoards ice, a jilted bride who weeps over her washing and a debauched, liquor-fuelled party. There’s a newly arrived couple equipped with planter box, white picket fence and baby lamb ready to establish domestic bliss and there's also a little boy. Meanwhile in the basement convict-like workers pump water up into the house above. We are given no formal introduction to the characters as there is no spoken dialogue. Rather, the protagonists are well-worn archetypes identifiable by costume as they appear in windows and weave in and out, up and down the façade via rope ladders, swinging walkways and a suspended rowboat, going about their idiosyncratic lives.

A great flood constitutes the story’s climax and necessitates a daring escape as the residents flee from rising waters to the topmost apartment. However the young boy is accidentally left behind and engulfed, only to be resurrected, recalling Jonah’s journey in the whale. The clownish fisherman ultimately helps the boy, saving the day in spectacular fashion, rounding off this whimsical tale with a happy ending.

Technically speaking, Dream Masons is spectacular. The use of water is impressive, as is the kinetic set. A beautiful lighting design by Daniel Zika creates a candle-lit effect across the sandstone facade and spotlights are well employed in assisting the audience to follow the action across this vast canvas. The layers of history visually represented by the floors in the Dream Masons’ apartment block resonate poignantly with the work’s siting in the mini tourist mecca of historic Salamanca Place. Despite occasional clumsiness, innovative use of image projection and shadow puppetry is used effectively to create visions of the underworld. However the distance between performers and audience makes following the plot somewhat challenging.

Pace and dramatic atmosphere are developed throughout the show by a live instrumental ensemble and The Southern Gospel Choir, the latter covering a number of frustratingly obvious popular songs with references to water (Bridge over Troubled Water for example). The performance of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah seemed rather tactless given the nature of the demise by drowning of Jeff Buckley, the best known interpreter of the song.

Appropriating Tasmanian waterscape photographs such as Dombrovski’s historically significant Rock Island Bend as background for banners that introduce scenes is also problematic. These images simply joined the plethora of water references in Dream Masons ultimately muddied meaning.

There is little subtlety to be found in this spectacular performance, perhaps because of the complex logistical objectives of the project. For me, the most poetic moment came when I noticed the Pacific Princess cruise ship serendipitously docked at Hobart’s waterfront parallel to the Salamanca Arts Centre. With its portholes alight it beautifully embodied Dream Masons’ tale of a dwelling supported by water.

Dream Masons, story, design & theatrical concept Jim Lasko, Jessica Wilson, Joey Ruigrok Van Der Werven, directors Jessica Wilson and Jim Lasko, designers Joey Ruigrok Van Der Werven, Jim Lasko, musical director Basil Hogios, lighting designer Daniel Zika, creative producer Jessica Wilson, executive producer Kay Jamieson; Salamanca Arts Centre, Ten Days on the Island, March 23-26

Bec Tudor is a writer and researcher based in Hobart. Her interests include fine art, philosophy, environmental thought, education and community.

RealTime issue #0 pg. web

© Bec Tudor; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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