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Helen Herbertson, Morphia Series Helen Herbertson, Morphia Series
photo Rachelle Roberts
Helen Herbertson’s Morphia Series is a work in miniature. An audience of 12 is driven to a mystery location then offered an edible object which is more artwork than food; after washing it down with a floral dessert wine they are seated in the darkest of spaces.

The unknown nature of the location and its hidden interior leave us at the edge of the visible. Eyes adjust to the blackness as a woman emerges from a clouded box. The cube is illuminated as if by daylight. A yellow light shines around a figure whose outline is in shadow. She performs an infinitesimal roll along her spine. Her ribcage incrementally shifts sideways. Gunfire sounds a rat-a-tat-tat to her Tai-Chi style shifts in weight. Hand gestures shoo an invisible insect. The box is flooded in red, awash in sea sounds. At one point, the seating for the 12 observers shunts forward jerkily like a ghost train. Losing our bearings, we are exposed to ourselves, in close proximity to a body now naked. She scrabbles into the sand, searching for some buried memory, evoking old sores, settling old scores.

Morphia is a female version of Morpheus, the son of the god of dreams. But it feels less like a dream than a poetry reading consisting of bodily writings, haiku maybe. Ben Cobham’s set design and lighting are integral to the work, producing a fine sense of perspective. The cube is small, seen at a distance in a well of darkness. Each section has its own lighting and soundscape. Thus the box and its body are able to create different tones. At the end of Morphia Series, the jury are driven home, left to deliberate if not concur.

Morphia Series, choreographer, performer Helen Herbertson, artistic collaboration Ben Cobham; Oct 29-Nov 9

RealTime issue #52 Dec-Jan 2002 pg. 6

© Philipa Rothfield; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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