|Written by Jodi McAlister|
|Friday, 12 August 2011 15:38|
Unsex Me is not my type of theatre. I am a word person. I love words, I love language, and when it comes to the world of physical theatre and performance art, I feel distinctly uneasy. When spoken language is not the primary means of communication, I am always secretly afraid that I won’t ‘get it’, won’t have the faintest idea what is going on.
Considering I have all these hang-ups, I was surprised at how much I liked Unsex Me. It is a deeply enjoyable piece of theatre. The message – relationships are hard, getting into them is harder – is not exactly original, but considering the amount of art made along these lines, it is definitely universal. I feel like the medium really did suit the message: the audience’s confusion at trying to understand the ‘language’ of the piece mirrored the character’s confusion at the ‘language’ of the world of relationships. Unsex Me is honest, critical, touching at times, occasionally very funny, sometimes (I confess) confusing, but above all, refreshing, and I enjoyed it a lot. (It was also just the right length – a virtue which cannot be overstated – and it had a charming self-awareness that I loved.)
Nick Atkins, the performer and co-devisor, was definitely the lynchpin of this piece. I can’t over-emphasise how gifted he is. While I definitely didn’t understand the significance of a lot of the dance and movement in this piece, there is no denying that Atkins is an outstanding physical actor. Moreover, he is very charismatic and really has the ability to build a rapport with an audience – which, considering Unsex Me not only broke the fourth wall but didn’t even have one, was very important. He switched from character to character, spoken word to movement, scene to scene, with great ease. I really hope to see more of Atkins’ work, as both a performer and a maker of theatre. Likewise Michal Imielski (co-devisor, composer and director) – the soundscape he put together for this show was great and he and Atkins function excellently as a team.
I feel like the things I didn’t like about Unsex Me were more related to me being with the medium more than anything else. The play created its own language of symbols and motifs – the one differently shaped wine glass representing the performer, for example – and while this was very powerful when the audience followed along, sometimes it could get confusing. But perhaps this is part of the beauty of this type of theatre: in the director’s notes, Michal Imielski writes that “when coming to theatre one should feel like visiting a foreign country; a foreign country you do not know the language of, nor the exact customs. The only idea linking you and the inhabitants of that ‘country’ is that you think you are both human and that you both want to communicate with each other.” This is, I think, a great way of putting it. I didn’t understand the language of Unsex Me. But this play did manage to communicate with me.
Unsex Me is definitely a piece of theatre worth seeing, even for those like me who are word people and find physical theatre and performance art rather alienating. Don’t go along expecting to ‘get’ every little thing. Don’t overthink it. Just enjoy it.
Venue: Riverside Theatres | Cnr of Church and Market Streets, Parramatta
Dates: 8 – 20 August 2011
Tickets: Adult $25; Conc $22; 3 show season pass $60*
Bookings: 8839 3399
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