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Melbourne Festival


Jonathan Marshall

Jonathan Marshall
Although the festival’s aesthetic highpoint was Romeo Castellucci’s extraordinarily polymorphous, living tableau of the anguish generated when form becomes matter in Genesi, the theatre program’s political gut-kick was NYID (Not Yet It’s Difficult) Theatre Company’s K. NYID has a mixed performance history, but this is no criticism since Artistic Director David Pledger is not interested in mounting glossy, fetishised theatrical product to funnel into the maw of the international festival circuit. He is concerned with using the stage as a laboratory for ideas and practices (as in NYID’s remarkable collaboration with Gekidan Kaitaisha earlier this year). It was nevertheless gratifying to see NYID staging a show with the assurance and precision demonstrated in its until now most cohesive work Sports Edition (1997).

Marcuse and others have argued that we do not read cultural products, rather culture reads us. We are bathed in culture, even before our consciousness forms. How can one enunciate genuine political or moral alternatives when even the terms of what might constitute opposition lies already coded within political discourse and language? K was a compelling, fiercely satirical exploration of what these ideas might mean for today’s televisual, hyper-commercialised world.

K’s chief irony is the same as that of 1984—even in a world of incarceration, observation and policing, it is ultimately the individual who must accept and internalise repressive values for them to be fully effective within the wider social context. The stage was an open, anonymous studio, its margins sharply delineated by dark, mirrored screens across which were scanned the copyrighted products: LoveTM, EmpathyTM, Lung CancerTM, PoliticsTM. Beyond these boundaries sat the audience, entering the venue via a complex set of back passages, before being placed into this non-realm outside the performance space itself—a metaphor for contemporary political engagement if ever there was one. David Pledger maintained a precisely demarcated dramaturgy in which closed corridors of light marked out the main peripheral circuit. Along these corridors strode Luciano Martucci as the entrepreneurial impresario of political control and product development, while the middle of the stage acted as either a constricted centre (where K himself stood, confined), or a blown-out platform for vibrantly superficial, commercialised, televisual performance, streaming in all directions.

The show presented an horrific, Fellini-esque carnival of logical conundrums and double-talk: the empathetic torturer who insisted on ‘feeling your pain’ as he assaulted K, the televisual host made flesh of Vivienne Walsh, exhibiting a range of tics and wide, hyper-sexual, swinging-legged stances which made both Lara Croft and Hugo Weaving in The Matrix seem like plausible human beings. K was imprisoned, reprogrammed and let loose only to become even more intensely unfree, pedalling a cynical, deflated version of political disengagement and DemokracyTM. As long as the individual is not consulted about isolated political decisions (rather than electing “a representative”) and is unable to set the actual terms of debate, the ancient Athenian word ‘democracy’ remains brutally corrupted by the forces Pledger identifies. The madness K depicts is indeed no more incongruous than one in which private pharmaceutical companies patent our genes. As Pledger explained in his guise as ‘Company Man’: “You’ll really feel it when I fuck you up the arse! I am the Prophet/Profit!”

For another view of K see Keith Gallasch’s response at
K, NYID Theatre Co, direction, design, text, performance David Pledger, design,production management Paul Jackson, lighting Shane Grant, dramaturgy Peter Eckersall, video & film Mark Atkin, Michael Williams, Paul Hosking; Melbourne Museum, Oct 23-Nov 2.

RealTime issue #52 Dec-Jan 2002 pg. 7

© Jonathan Marshall; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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