[2012032] XXXO

[2012032] XXXO [FringeTIX]

Charlotte De Bruyne & Nathalie Verbeke @ Adelaide College of the Arts – XSpace

8:00pm, Thu 23 Feb 2012

I’m the only person who turns up for Christophe’s show (and even then I’m a minute or two late), so we swap details and I commit to seeing him some other time. Out comes the Fringe iPhone App, and I’m searching the Timeline for other shows on The Shortlist that I can squeeze in… up pops XXXO at the same location as the following show that I’ve got tickets for. It’s almost too perfect. A quick walk, a bottle of water and an espresso, and I’m in.

The XSpace is a wide space – plenty wide enough for the pair of screens (and their respective projectors) that bracket the table, anyway. There’s two laptops on the table. Two women walk out, sit at the table, and open their respective laptops. The desktops of their two Macs appear on the screens; that’s odd, I thought, and vaguely unprofessional. As moody ambient electronica plays, they navigate through folders, then fire up Photo Booth and start manually skipping through a series of photos.

The photos are all self-portraits, probably taken with those same laptops. In each photo, they are crying. Sitting at the table, lying in bed, on the couch… but always in tears. If the tears themselves aren’t visible, the images allude to their presence.

It’s a pretty brutal start. Image after image on both screens, welled-up eyes and tightened downturned lips.

Suddenly, they drop back to Finder, navigate to a new folder, and start playing a series of movie clips – a different movie on each screen. They’re movies that have an emotional effect on the girls, and they mime out the action in sync with the movies in front of the projection screens. There’s snippets of Titanic, a bit of Magnolia, the bizarre inclusion of First Blood

Back to the laptops, and they open documents containing script fragments: Home and Away, Sex and the City. Their accents make the words sound ludicrous – the girls are from Belgium – and the choice of scripts is odd… there doesn’t really seem to be anything tear-worthy in these pieces.

But then out comes the chopping board with an onion, and they hack away at it, breathing in deep. A pot of VapoRub appears, and is dabbed under the eyes. They rub their eyes, stretch their eyelids for maximum effect… the tears flow again.

Movies sourced from YouTube – of stricken puppies, of people dying on camera, of 9/11 phone calls – keep the girls crying. One girl reads a letter to the other, a projection of her feelings on the other’s death, whilst the other sketches out the means of her death for her laptop’s eye – and, hence, our screen – to see.

And, all the while, Photo Booth remains open, occasionally capturing photos of the tears to add to the collection, to be shown to the audience on another night.

Suddenly, it’s over – and I’m left slightly bewildered. I’d essentially watched two girls bully themselves into tears for the best part of an hour, and for what? I was drawn in at the start, with the series of photos of the seemingly distraught girls, but once I was exposed to the tricks they use to conjure the tears… well, there’s no emotional connection anymore.

XXXO, upon reflection, is a bit of a con. We’re presented with a wall of emotion, and are then told it’s fake. So why should I care? I may well up at some of the same movie clips that they do, but that bears no reflection on their “characters” – just that we emote at the same well-produced theatrical tricks. I connect with those crafted creations, not the people onstage. And that, in a live theatrical setting, is a bit of a problem.

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