OperationPhoto Tamara Rewse

A man sits on an operating table as a menacing surgeon peers over him and begins to operate upon him. What has brought this man here? Who is his surgeon? Why is he being operated on? Blood Policy’s Operation opening scenes immediately pose questions that are slowly unravelled over the course of the performance.

As we watch, the surgeon (puppeteer Sam Routledge) begins to cut open the man, and we see the surgeon extract from the man’s body small objects and eventually people. These ‘found’ objects/puppets become the focus of the story of the man on the operating table. We see this man journey from somewhere in Asia Minor across Europe to eventually settle in Australia. We see the man fall in love, get married, have a family, and struggle with work. Then we see what actions bring him to be on that operating table, and it’s not pleasant at all, even though as viewers we want to know.

Operation works slowly and methodically to create this story over its running time, and the detail that the puppeteer Sam Routledge bring to his performance is exceptional, though the piece does takes a long time (for the viewer) to get where it’s going, and when it does the narrative presented feels clichéd in its representation of the world.

The sound design by Aaron Cuthbert was at times overbearing and had the effect of obstructing the narrative and making the work unnecessarily abstract when it could’ve been used to aid the viewer more. Alternatively the use of new media worked well in that it was unobtrusive and helped marry the actions of the puppeteer to the story. 

Interestingly the performance generated two very different experiences in this reviewer and a friend who attended on the night. While this reviewer was drawn quickly into the story and became engaged with its implications, the friend, not an avid theatregoer, struggled to be drawn into the world and as a result missed many of the key metaphors and symbolism. This poses an interesting question: how much foreknowledge is required to view a work? And is this knowledge, assumed by the performers, universal to everyone? Though this is something that all performers should consider, only you as a viewer can answer this definitively.

Overall Operation is an experience that leaves you with more questions than it answers and for some (like this reviewer) that sensation is rewarding, while for others (like my friend) that experience is merely confusing.

FULL TILT at the Arts Centre in association with Arts Projects Australia presents
by Blood Policy

Venue: the Arts Centre | Blackbox
Dates: 2 May – 12 May, 2007
Preview: 1 May, 7.30pm, Tickets $18
Times: Tues - Sat @ 7.30pm
Tickets: $28 Full, $23 Con, $20 Groups
Bookings: Bookings at ticketmaster.com.au* on 1300 136 166* or outlets *transaction fee applies
Website: theartscentre.net.au/fulltilt

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