Missa Pro Venerabilibus is something altogether different, an immersive ritualised work of whacky theatrical whimsy celebrating ageing creatively without being annoyingly positive about the business of 'elderflowering’ itself.
The show is carefully structured to follow the steps of the Roman Catholic Requiem Mass. Devised by The Celebrants Robin Laurie (The Eldest), Heather Horrocks (The Next Eldest) and Peta Murray (The Youngest, also the Writer), Missa Pro Venerabilibus was created as part of Footscray Community Arts Centre’s Creatively Ageing program.
The rituals and rites take place in an astro-turfed space (signs warn one to keep off the grass) suitably smoky and incense-filled and lit to create an air of solemnity, where the audience/church-goers join in singing a ‘hum’ (the show concludes with a modern version of Abide by Me). This sacred space is designed with tongues-in-cheek by Jane Murphy and Rachel Burke; it includes an area housing the Stations of the Very Cross where niches have names like Gentle Forbearance, Stoic Resignation or Gracious Acceptance. Audience members are invited to contribute a written grizzle regarding their personal infirmities and then ritually place magazines and grapes beneath an altar – because these are what you want when you’re flat on your back.
The humour here is subtle and effective – the audience is encouraged to shout out favourite words – before we forget them. Various rites are observed, these may or may not include Rites of Tintinnabulus, Rites of Complaint, Rites of Great Noise, Rites of Borrowed Time, Rites of Passage, or Rites of Ejaculation, and A Judith Wright. Alarm clocks are wound to go off and interrupt the proceedings, acting as a cue to a shared voiced-aloud emphatic ‘yea, verily, yea.’ The growth of unwelcome facial hair on women is given consideration and everyone is supplied with a mustache to both honour and pre-empt its appearance. The efficacies of blueberries and elderflower cordial are praised; here we enjoy the effectiveness of the list as theatrical language. Readings include pieces by Hildegard of Bingen, segments from the Office of The Dead, along with pieces of prose and poetry from various contemporary writers (Judith Wright being one), and music from the modern era includes Can You Feel It by the Jackson Five. Ageing well or otherwise ought to involve dancing, after all.
An original and adorable show.
2016 Melbourne Fringe Festival
Missa Pro Venerabilibus
Venue: Footscray Community Arts Centre | 45 Moreland St, Footscray VIC
Dates: 16 – 17 September 2016
Tickets: $15 – $10