Left - Meg Stuart & Philipp Gehmacher. Photos - Chris Van der Burght
Is it theatre? Is it dance? Is it spoken word? A concert?
Well, it’s all of them in an odd but effective hybrid of dance, semaphore, poetry, musing electric guitar meanderings, sweet love songs and symbolism. Relationship angst is reduced to elemental forms of expression in a show that melds the above into a seemingly jerky but actually smooth and coherent whole. It is hard to imagine it working on paper but on stage it does. Just when you think you’re bored with the repetitive marionette moves of the performers, the action morphs into a monologue of such rhythmic fluency and honesty that your heart constricts. Or then it becomes a gentle concert of exquisite love songs by a shy musician who really does appear to have just strolled out of his bedroom with his electric guitar. Maybe Forever is one to take away with you and sleep on. And by it be uncomfortably reminded of your own life.
Moving along in such a strange voyeuristic yet detached way with the performers means that sometimes you have to stop wondering whether this movement means that, or this, and just feel …Then you know the show has done its work because you feel tight in the chest and a bit teary. Maybe Forever is about a relationship. Here you witness that one, yours or someone else’s, where you just want to scream out For f****’s sake just get ON with it! Break up or get over yourselves. The two come close, separate, anguish, die a thousand small deaths by tedium, rip each other up, relate to each other on automatic pilot, share moments of sensuality and tenderness. As we do. The truthfulness of this work is above reproach.
The dance vocabulary is staccato and robotic, reminiscent of puppets on a string or windmills. Theatre conventions are undercut by little nods to the fact that this is a performance, reminding us of how often we ‘perform ourselves’ for the other. The musician (Niko Hafkenscheid) observes how nice it is for him to be in Melbourne (he’s from Belgium) and at one moment the curtain of the sparse set is ripped back to expose the business side of upstage, fire extinguisher, storage cupboards, painted wall. It is an inspired and symbolic gesture. This work is not easy on an audience, nor is it hard. The lovers never actually speak to each other in words; their conversations are overheard in snatches of voice-over dialogue, soundscape, in their dance and the songs. We wait to hear the voice of the man (a reference to how women are so often more articulate when it comes to talking about feelings). He finishes the show on a heartfelt note of pure ambivalence. There are subtle references to the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, to wishes unfulfilled with the backdrop picture of daisy clocks, moments of poignancy and abandonment, moments of joy. Maybe Forever successfully attempts to express the un-sayable in our intimacies. Nothing lasts.
Malthouse Theatre & Goethe-Institut present
Choreographed & Performed Meg Stuart & Philipp Gehmacher
Venue: Merlyn Theatre
Dates: June 23 – June 26