Sylvia Rimat in her latest performance piece, I Guess If The Stage Exploded…, wants us to remember this performance for the rest of our lives. Rimat wants to invade our memory and burn the images she presents onto our retinas. We will remember, we will recall and we will preserve for future reference. It’s a notion that I am sure most theatre makers relate to (How do we get our audience to remember our work, will they remember after they’ve left their seats?) but the reality is unlikely. Theatre is often the here and now, it offers us a form of escapism and within a week the moments that were so strong in the theatre begin to fade.
I guess the question to ask is, does I Guess If The Stage Exploded… actually work in preserving the performance beyond the normal timeframe? Of course this is hard to judge as only a day has passed, but there is a quality about my memories of the show that seem to stick out. I remember the names of certain participants brought into the performance, such as Winnie Love, bound for Sidney. Or Tessa the owl woman – although I’m sure this is to do with the red owl stamped on my hand on entering the theatre.
Rimat presents a series of exercises for us to remember the performance by, through repetition of tasks, highlighting certain audience members or just using bizarre images of herself under a lampshade reciting soothing words. It is safe to say that I Guess If The Stage Exploded… is a memorable experience, because Rimat tries so hard to make it so. As a piece of theatre it is wonderfully playful and inventive, offering audiences a memorable journey.
Yet whilst the overall workings of the piece are brilliant conceived, the true beauty of the performance can be found in the small, subtler moments that Rimat has created. From the trail of flour foot prints she leaves around the space as she moves, to the projection of eyes on a large screen looking down, to the real-life owl hauntingly looking about, Rimat offers these moments with playful manners, coaxing her audience to play with her. During the Skype relays to different parts of the world there is a touching encounter with two friends in Sydney who during the course of the performance have made a banner for Winnie, our audience member. It is a party in the future, one that eventually Winnie will experience in the present time in England. Whilst slightly childish, the levels of meaning are wonderfully conveyed, as if each of us is waiting for the future to happen half-way across the world – do we ever stop chasing it?
Injected into the piece are recordings of a conversation Rivat has had with a doctor or professor who mulls over the idea of her performance. Whilst I’m not entirely convinced that I will remember it forever, I’m sure that there will be a moment when Rivat’s imagery will spring to my mind and I’ll be transported momentarily back to Mayfest.
I Guess If The Stage Exploded… is a wonderfully inventive performance, that not only questions the nature of performance spectating but also offers a tantalising 45 minutes of theatrical joy. I’m not often a fan of solo pieces, but Rivat has been captivating– and anyone who manages to work a real-life owl into their performance work has my attention, hoot and all.
I Guess If The Stage Exploded performed at Mayfest. For more shows and events happening during Mayfest see the website.