Institute | GeckoPhotos – Prudence Upton

Filing cabinets are stark visual metaphors for the order of corporate life. They make memorable cinematic appearances as Sam Lowry and Josef K both find themselves totally lost as employees in vast buildings in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil and Orson Welles’ The Trial.

In Institute, filing cabinets stand ominously around the stage. Yet these are strangely beautiful, thanks to Chris Swain and Amit Lahaw’s superb lighting. They often let off a dark green hue, as if leaping from the pages of some dark and fantastic graphic novel. In fact the lighting is the by far the most impressive aspect of this production. The climax is staged in a small glass chamber resembling a hospital ward, and the light within is guaranteed to burn its way onto your retina.    

Two hard working English gents are soon joined in filing cabinet forest a pair of Frenchmen. Corporate life must go on with uninterrupted efficiency so there is no time for centuries old cross channel rivalries here. They embark on what is best described as series of team building exercises designed by choreographers instead of management consultants. They dance centre stage, arms linked, weaving in and out of each other in total sync. Their work life is all and everything flows from it. The restaurants they take their wives to are literally pulled from the filing cabinets in a breath taking bit of set design by Rhys Jarman and Amit Lahaw.

Like many movement pieces an exact plot is impossible to discern. Perhaps you are meant to just go with it. This proves difficult when the dance routines often seem incongruous to the world of the production. At times they make for an irritating protraction of the whole night, for those of us seeking spectacle without knowing the finer points of movement theatre.

The lighting and props are striking and often surreal. The filing cabinets are indeed a thing of surprising beauty. If I was chief clerk, the rest would be filed under “c” for confusing.

2017 Sydney Festival

Venue: Seymour Centre | Cnr Cleveland Street and City Road, Chippendale NSW
Dates: 25 – 28 January 2017
Tickets: $56 – $50
Bookings: 02 9351 7940