posted by Arts Intern Matthew Vollono
Yesterday I attended a matinee performance of Two Faced Bastard, the latest by Australian troupe Chunky Move, and the last offering of the ‘08/’09 season from White Birds Uncaged Series (have no fear — they already have the ‘09/10 season scheduled).
The setup for this latest production is disarmingly simple: a curtain hangs from the ceiling to floor, separating the YWCA gymnasium into two equal sides. Audience members sit on either side of the curtain (your seat is based on the door through which you enter) so that only half the performance can be seen at any given time. If this sounds like a gimmick, it’s not — part of the initial thrill of watching Two Faced Bastard has as much to do as much with what you see, as what is kept from you.
If my description of the opposing audience setup sounds a bit confusing, take look at this video from the World Premiere in Melbourne, and then read about what I thought after the jump:
from Chunky Move
Ultimately,Two Faced Bastard is an interesting, if flawed, experiment in the dueling nature of perception. The performances of the two baffled men at core of the whole thing (Brian Lipson and Vincent Crowley) proved the highlight. In one of piece's strongest moments, Lipson insists on interviewing each dancer in the middle of a particularly strenuous dance, all while clumsily trying to mimic their graceful movements. It's a funny moment, made even richer by the honest answers the dancers provide, and it gave me high hopes for the rest of the show. What a shame then, that the second half of the performance was so disappointing.
Things get off to a awkward start when the show is stopped midway through so the actors can address the audience directly. As needless as I found this interruption, it was nowhere near as ridiculous as the scene in which dancers attack each other while dressed in cardboard boxes and packing tape (see photo above), like some war between the contents of rival U-Hauls.
From here on, Two Faced Bastard gets a bit drunk on its own eccentricities. When a woman dressed in packing material pokes at a piece of foam with the corner of her foot for five minutes, only to be ordered to surrender her costume, I couldn’t help checking my watch. And when two actors engage in an all too real fight that ends with one of them suffering a bloody nose, I grew even more restless. Was the other side of the audience seeing something more interesting than I? Would I have to see this again to fully experience it? And was it even worth finding out?
Ultimately this piece lacks the cohesion necessary for such a highly charged and complicated piece of choreography. The production suffers from a jumble of half-baked ideas, most of which serve the idea of the production, rather than the production itself, and in the end I felt kind of cheated. To deny audience members one half of a performance based on the nature of duality feels a bit unfair, like giving us Jekyll without Mr. Hyde.
Two Face Bastard will no doubt be received differently by audience members seated on the opposite side than me. After all, they saw an entire different performance than I did, which I suppose is the point. But regardless, simple questions of coherency remain, and I left the YWCA unsure of just what I was supposed to see, and not all that interested in what I didn't.
Two Face Bastard runs thru Sunday 4/19 (today). Tickets can be purchased on White Bird's website.
all photography courtesy of White Bird