Forge @ AC Arts – Stables
9:30pm, Fri 4 Mar 2011
This… this was a bit of a heavy one.
The Departure is about a relationship – given the title of the piece, we can guess how the relationship goes – but one of the key hooks of the piece is that the dialogue is sourced from Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Though Neruda became recognised early in life through a mixture of surreal and political poetry, The Departure uses an early anthology – Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair – for the narration of the relationship that we are shown.
And it’s pretty intense stuff. Nick Martin and Shannon Mackowski play the doomed couple, and they’re both beautiful creatures – physical lust is palpable early on, though Neruda’s wordy prose, whilst deeply erotic in itself, somehow diffuses the passion. The poetry almost seems to get in the way of the relationship; the descriptions of their devotion for each other hold them apart.
…until the very end of the performance, the hour of his departure. The stage features a table at which they sit; projected video details the elaborate setting of the table. They are sitting at a magnificent feast, but they’re aware something is wrong; Martin slowly pulls away from the table as Mackowski slowly backs away in shock, chest heaving… it’s an immense moment, and one where the passion that had been trapped within the two gushes out. But it’s soured in the meantime; it’s now a sadness, a longing.
Martin and Mackowski are both compelling in their roles, which seem to be equal parts dialogue and dance, as they skip the stage, chasing each other around the table, with Mackowski lifted and thrown as demonstration of their shared joy. Jenn Havelberg’s direction is clean; the wide expanses of the Stables allow her troops plenty of room to move, keeping the background-filling projections free for all to see. Mina Zhang Meng provided a suitably refined score on piano.
As I mentioned at the top, this was a very heavy, densely emotional performance; and yet, I felt oddly detached and passionless… until that final scene. Now that is something that will stick with me for a long time.