Melbourne International Arts Festival
8-12, October 2008
Arts House, Meat Market
On either side of a dividing curtain a group of performers juggle two simultaneous shows played to two opposing audiences. Each exit through the curtain becomes an entrance on the other side. There is no backstage, nowhere to get off, nowhere to hide. As one world bleeds into another a unique performance emerges, cut loose from the rules that determine a performer’s onstage/offstage life.
A cleverly staged work, Two Faced Bastard reveals our constant state of duality and capacity for treachery in the desire for individual gain. A tantilising look at two duplicitous worlds of fiction and reality, this production exposes its cast with often hilarious consequences.
DIRECTION AND CHOREOGRAPHY: Gideon Obarzanek and Lucy Guerin
SET DESIGN: Ralph Myers
LIGHTING DESIGN: Phil Lethlean
COMPOSER: Darrin Verhagen
COSTUME DESIGNER: Paula Levis
SOUND DESIGNER/OPERATOR: Russell Goldsmith
ADDITIONAL MUSIC: Gerald Mair
DURATION: 1 hour no interval
Two Faced Bastard Highlights Footage
The first time we met we talked about duality. We experimented with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, duplicitous acts of cruelty, performing in disguises. Choreography was focused on sole entities made from two or more bodies sometimes in harmony but often struggling with one another, irreconcilable elements bound together. Rather than the content however what emerged as more interesting was the act of transformation by the performers into other versions of themselves. As they stepped through the curtain in front of an audience they changed. The work shifted. It became more about the act of performing, the actor or dancer on stage doing their shtick, this is what we knew, this was our two-faced job.
After years of performing and making shows we now wanted a better understanding of what we were doing, why we were doing it and who it was for? Opinions and experiences differed. One person saw the stage as a mysterious place that could not be fully understood or controlled by the performer, undermined by irrational dreads and desires. Another claimed that we could explain and understand this environment, a place where our actions are determined by rational motives. We looked into Kafka’s Trial and Orson Well’s 1962 film version with its extraordinary visualisations of labyrinthine surreal spaces inhabited by inscrutable characters.
An argument began. Ego and pride became involved and it got interesting. Initially polar opposites, words and action burst through the curtain, colliding into each other, infecting, competing and destroying. Dance was dissected and killed by discussion and words were assaulted, mowed down by feverish dance. Their spilt blood mixed into mutant forms, words were danced and dance was spoken. The group fragmented and the stage became a battleground to be conquered, the audience to be won. We wanted to keep going until there was nothing left, but there was always something left, a spark of life after every death the work automatically rebooted itself after every crash. It was in perpetual motion, endless. At some point we are just going to have to stop.
Two Faced Bastard is for me an opportunity to discuss some of the elements of life and theatre that I find most compelling. It is in essence a dialogue, exploring two points of view and separating out some ideas that would perhaps normally be integrated within one work.
This piece revels in the discomfort we experience when expectations and theories don’t fit the real world. The performers are left exposed, caught out by a clash of realities, like opening a door that you think is leading outside and finding yourself in a broom closet. For performers, a common nightmare is somehow ending up on stage in a show and not knowing their lines; or having no idea of the steps of the dance they are in and desperately trying to fumble their way through.
The logistics of Two Faced Bastard are both exhilarating and daunting. Working on it is like a puzzle that keeps shifting, and as one piece falls into place, another no longer fits. But the thrill is being able to present one view while acknowledging its opposition. A dance involving pure movement can be shattered when its meaning is asked for in words. A theatrical text can seem futile when confronted with the physical energy and intricate complexity of a dance. The real and the fictitious, the onstage and the off stage, narrative stories and poetic interpretation, acting and dancing are all jostling for primacy.
Words lose potency as actions gain momentum. Conclusions become more elusive as different arguments proliferate. We are forced to acknowledge that the idea of ‘black and white’ is a fiction and that all views are dependent on the existence of others. There is a point where we must agree to differ.