It is a confronting situation, both for the audience and for Bosetti, who is the only ‘actor’ on this occasion. Cuocolo, the director, greets you at the door before heading back to his computer. He ushers the audience, seven of us on this occasion, into a room that serves as a waiting space, where we are exposed to a video of Bosetti’s cluttered home in Vercelli, Italy.
Finally Bosetti makes her appearance, greets us individually and begins her monologue. Much is made of the theme of waiting, of expectation, of disappointment. If you go home disappointed, the creative duo could no doubt say you were warned! As it was, we were tricked into thinking one of us was sent home, when the unlucky punter was obviously a friend of theirs posing as an audience member. There were to be no real risks taken in this experiment.
Life and art are barely separable for Cuocolo and Bosetti, who declare on the IRAA Theatre website, “We want to reflect upon the interplay between what constitutes Art and what is everyday life.” This is nothing new. It is reminiscent of Oscar Wilde’s “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates life.” Wilde was one of many writers who made his life a work of art. Cuocolo and Bosetti lived in the public eye in their The Diary Project in the Melbourne International festival of 2004, when they took up residence in the Arts Centre lobby and could be observed like fish in bowl. This time they invite us into their home to reveal themselves in a more intimate setting.
The ‘play’ resumes in another part of the de-cluttered house, where Bosetti recalls an abiding image from her childhood. She then struggles to identify the other parts of the memory and the emotions it brings up. The scene changes, or rather we move to a different space, for the denouement (thankfully there is one), and the memory comes clear, in her own mind and in ours. These last five minutes are a relief after the hour of repetitive phrases during which we have observed her stuck in the impasse of her blocked memory.
There is no comparison here with Oscar Wilde, whose plays are finely crafted pieces that will live on down the generations. This is ephemeral art. Maybe John Lennon and Yoko Ono are a better comparison, although there is no grand idealism behind this public exposure. This is more memoir off the page, a sifting through of relics from childhood, as suggested in the title of this production Relics & Time.
The substance of the play, the textual content, is slight. It is delivered as if extempore, but the ideas and themes, and probably whole passages of monologue, are obviously thought through in advance. In which case, why is the content not richer in detail and ideas? Even if the performance were not rehearsed, you would expect a seasoned performer to come up with something more interesting and surprising.
This is not to say that Bosetti is not articulate. Far from it. Her opening meditation on waiting was beautifully expressed. But the subsequent sections of the monologue did not carry the same conviction. Nevertheless, she mesmerises her audience with her deep resonant voice, a fine sense of timing and oodles of charisma. As she performs her mundane household tasks, we are lulled by the rhythm of her words in syncopation with her deliberate, slow movements.
The effect lingers long after the performance ends. When I get home and make coffee in my own kitchen, I find I have slowed down. Each movement feels deliberate and stylised. OK, art and life are related, but I am not sure that I want that much self-consciousness in my own daily existence. Perhaps a little more drama.
Surely we have moved beyond the existentialists. Samuel Beckett conveyed the banal in his plays. He expressed the pointlessness of life in Waiting for Godot. Yet, his plays are full of drama, of brilliant dialogue, and are a visual feast of the mundane. IRAA Theatre is acclaimed as experimental theatre that pushes the boundaries, but you cannot lead the way without a touch of genius.
IRAA Theatre presents
The Nature of Things
Season 1: Relics and Time
Venue: Secret - to be revealed when booking
Dates: 6 - 25 February 2007 (Tuesday to Saturday)
Times: Dusk til Dawn – you choose (Duration –1 hour)
Tickets: Single $ 45; Couple $30 per head; Group (max 10 people) $ 25 per head