Symphony of Strange
Gareth Hart @ The Tuxedo Cat
10:00am, Thu 14 Mar 2013
It’s getting towards the tail-end of the season, and matinées are like gold dust – and I’d heard that Gareth Hart’s latest work, Symphony of Strange, had an 10:00am session. I hit FringeTIX too late: “sold out”, it tells me, and I am shattered: I loved Ellipsis, and the Schedule already has other shows that would block Symphony… so, after bumping into Hart at the Fringe Club one evening, I asked if I could sneak into that session. “For sure,” he replied, before issuing a warning: “you will be seing the show with 33 school kids!”
So my Event Buddy and I turned up at the appropriate (early) hour and, as expected, were surrounded by schoolgirls. Once corralled, we’re all led through the labyrinthine lesser-seen parts of the Tuxedo Cat complex, up multiple sets of stairs until we reach a wide open space… there, we’re offered chilli chocolate (yum!) and a washcloth for our hands… as with Ellipsis, it appears Hart is aiming for an all-encompassing sensual experience.
There’s a circle on the ground, hazily determined by leaves and twigs, and Hart dances within it, moves fluid and elongated. A light rotates, occasionally catching Hart with its glare, and I think about how much more spectacular that would have appeared in an evening show, rather than in the mid-morning buried-urban murkiness. A collection of five musicians rhythmically crush items underfoot as they wind their way to a stage littered with everyday objects; once there, they start playing a (mostly percussive) composition scored by Edward Willoughby using jars, drums, fire extinguishers, and kitchen utensils.
All the while, Hart is exploring the floor of this abandoned building, lightly flitting between predetermined spaces defined by tea candles. I was immediately compelled to follow him as he begins to roam, but felt held back by the pack of schoolgirls; eventually I overcame the social pressure (“social pressure”? I’m over twice their age!) and pushed through, doing what I love to do in situations like this: finding the space. Framing the shot with my own eyes. Adding my visual filter to someone else’s presentation.
Flames become a common theme; the tea candles are everywhere, and there’s a sequence where Hart is “throwing” lit matches. But, with the dissipating shyness of the schoolgirls leading to their scattering around the space, he also takes the opportunity to duck back and dance amongst the crowd… nearby people freeze, looks of concern covering their faces, as they worry that they may inadvertently ruin the performance.
Suddenly, it’s over: there’s no real sense of climax in either the movement or the music (indeed, the latter softly peters out), it just stops. And I’m left with a sense of awe for the space that Hart has so fluidly skipped through, light as air… this empty space, hidden above the streets in my city. This empty space that so wonderfully filled with the noise of found instruments – the score was gorgeous. And I feel lucky to have managed to engage in this performance: hot weather be damned, I left TuxCat still nursing the taste of chilli chocolate in my mouth, and curious scrapes and rings in my ears, and flickering flames in my eyes, and I’m happy.
— Pete Muller (@festivalfreakAU) March 14, 2013