Garath Hart @ Queen’s Theatre 2
11:00am, Thu 8 Mar 2012
You can tell right away that you’re in for a quirky experience with Ellipsis – upon entry into Queen’s Theatre 2, you’re handed a pair of wireless headphones and a cup of hot, green tea. We choose our seats, don our headphones, and sit there waiting – sipping tea in silence – taking in the details of the cubic frame onstage, three sides of which have bars of red twine.
When Garath Hart places himself within the cube, he appears murky in the half-light of the theatre; the sound that comes through the headphones starts quietly, and is sparse and organic… it’s like eastern-flavoured meditation guide music. Subtle lighting highlights the sides of the cage; a small fan starts up, catching the red twine, and the way it drifts in and out of the light is mesmerising. Hart’s arms flow, there’s precision in his hands, and his legs make short, sharp movements: he’s like a bird within the cage. He’s perfectly synchronised with the burbles of the audio; curious, I remove my headphones… and discover it’s deathly quiet in the theatre.
Curious. My mind starts whirring, trying to figure out where he was getting his cues from, whilst also clinging to the idea that his performance is so tightly practiced that he can maintain that level of precision sans cues.
There’s a side-trip to a microphone for a short spoken word piece, then he returns to the cube. The music changes: it’s now much more percussive, mechanical, and Hart’s movements lose their flowing nature and become sharper, more precise. Again, his movements are perfectly synchronised with the audio, and again I check to see if there’s any audible cues in the theatre… no. Then I notice that there’s thuds and clicks and cracks that appear in the audio that coincide with his some of his footfalls on the stage; is the floor miked?
His dance remains hypnotic, engaging… and then the sound cuts out of my headphones. I take them off, checking the power LED that I noticed when I took possession of them; it was still on, but I noticed others in the audience checking their headsets too. Hart continues dancing, and I put the headphones back on; the sound comes back. Some minutes later it disappears again, then returns.
Hart completes his piece, and I applaud with vigour. I’ve somehow been incredibly engaged by this; the contrasting styles of dance and music, the unique staging, the enforced isolation of the headphones, the challenging audio presentation, and even the tea. It feels like a really thoughtful, intelligent piece of work, and I decide to wait behind to see if I can chat with him.
Others, of course, have the same idea, and I notice the artist lanyard around one young woman’s neck. We start chatting whilst waiting for Hart, and I discover that she’s one of the dancers from Carnally. I gush at her about her show – her older companions (parents? hosts?) grin with pride – and then Garath appears, obviously happy. I let the other dancer chat first, but then Garath turns to me and offers his hand in greeting: “we’ve met before,” he smiles, “at a piece called Pickled.”
I’m caught off-guard… and then the memories come flooding back. Not only did we see Pickled together, but I’d recommended that he also see Death in Bowengabbie, which Garath had subsequently graded with a so-so hand-wave… I’d always felt bad about that! We laugh at the recollection, and then I start grilling him about his wonderful performance: was the floor miked? Yep. How was it cued? There were some light cues, and there were some periods where the sound tech could pause to sync up. What about the drop-outs of audio in the headphones – were they deliberate?
He smiles mischievously. “I’m not saying,” he grins, with a twinkle in his eye.
I loved Ellipsis. It provided stimulation of just about every sense, and mentally engaged – and, paradoxically, soothed at the same time. A brilliant performance.