[2009025] Death in Heaven

Death in Heaven [FringeTIX]

Helen Vicqua @ Higher Ground (Art Base)

2:00pm, Sun 1 Mar 2009

Here’s another little factoid, dear reader, that you may not have picked up about me: I’m a morbid bugger. I find Death to be of immense interest. Exploration of themes surrounding death evokes fascination, wonderment. And, being of the male variety of homo sapien, I’m also interested in sex. Imagine my delight when, whilst at Uni, an ex-girlfriend borrowed The Joy of Sex from the Reserve Collection and we gigglingly pawed through it, coming across the perfect French term la petite mort – the little death, post-orgasmic stupefaction.

So when I read the précis of Death in Heaven in the Guide, I locked it in after only a few words – sex, death, what’s not to love? Oooh, a matinée? Perfect!

But just after I clicked the “Confirm” button on my FringeTIX order, I had a sudden pang of self doubt. I poked around the FringeTIX site for more info… and became a little scared. “Edgy interaction”? Uh-oh… that’s something that doesn’t interest me in the least.

But I turned up on a warm Sunday afternoon and descended the stairs into the Art Base; there’s only a few candles illuminating the “dungeon”, so the transition from bright daylight to stygian darkness resulted in more than a few bruised shins for the mostly full house. And I looked around at my co-punters, wondering what brought them there; seriously, a full house? Colour me surprised.

Anyhoo, Helen Vicqua – The Mistress Mortician – perches herself at the electric piano, black fishnet body stocking and shiny silver dress, and perfunctorily pushes out some morose classical bars before launching into the tale of Isis and Osiris, describing her practice of chalis (sp?), before delving into the first of three “case studies” – clients she had either helped pass peacefully into death, or helped through life, using a mixture of meditation, sex, and psychology.

Now, just typing that in and reading it back made the performance appear far more interesting than it actually was. The theme of death was strong in this performance; the crowd was deathly still and quiet, completely unresponsive. Vicqua dropped lines on a regular basis, which really surprised me given she’s been performing this piece since the Feast Festival last year. And yes, la petite mort was mentioned briefly, but the killer was the audience interaction – because there was none. Oh, it was intended – Vicqua tried to drag the crowd into discussions whenever she could – but no-one wanted to participate. Like I said, the crowd was dead.

I guess the big takeaway from this performance is the realisation that there’s still a lingering taboo with talking about sex, even in a room full of strangers. Or, rather, especially in a room full of strangers. Hmmmmm – maybe there’s something in that.

3 thoughts on “[2009025] Death in Heaven”

  1. I need to disagree with your review of Death in Heaven.
    This production is markedly different to everything else I have seen in this years fringe.
    A fascinating narrative, told with a refreshing simplicity and truthfulness.

    The Mistress Mortician (Helen Vicqua), provides an introduction to a hidden community, a world where clients prepare for death through orgasmic trance, igniting past physical memories, feelings and sensations for their final departure. The play, a guide to the history of the practice is combined with three contemporary cases of Adelaide clients and their conjuring of the orgasmic trance.

    Sure there were some technical glitches, and performance muddles, but this is exactly what made this show engaging, a real storyteller telling a fascinating story. Vicqua’s performance powerful in it’s stripped backed presentation of character, all their blemishes and imperfections in view.

    Death in Heaven, ‘really’ is something edgy and different in this years fringe. A show with a unique story to tell, beyond the mainstream theatre of regurgitated stereotypes, ideas and performances .

    This show encapsulates my belief in fringe, a narrative simply communicated and with actual interest for wider society.

  2. Kym – thanks for the comment :)

    You’re not really disagreeing with anything, though. Once you strip out all the fluff, all I really said was “dead audience, dropped lines.” Now, I could counter your counter by saying that there’s certainly far better storytellers out there, telling far more interesting stories, but that’s (a) completely subjective, and (2) beating a dead horse, really. That, and I don’t consider what I write to be “reviews”, per se – more like little notes to remind myself of all that I’ve seen, and how they made me think at the time.

    Now, your show, on the other hand… aces. Can’t wait for Rough for Theatre II :)

  3. It was a very interesting tale though. And I do agree with you that there are many good storytellers out there. Good for these discussions to happen.

    See you at rough. Ciao

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