Price Of Admission [FringeTIX]
Wayne James @ Nexus Gallery
8:00pm, Fri 24 Feb 2012
As I sit in the little fake-grass garden outside the Nexus Gallery, I’m almost assaulted by noise; some rawk is blasting out of Fowler’s, a bit of doof-doof from the UniSA campus. I’ve acquired a wristband that says I’m over 18 just to get here; O-Week parties are in full swing.
But the most compelling sound is from the woman playing the accordion next to the bar. The Gallery is still closed, so there’s a collection of people sitting in the garden, listening to her play amidst the wall of sound; I join them. Wayne James comes out and greets me, sitting by my side; “she’s lovely,” he says, nodding in the accordionist’s direction, “I heard her playing up by the Markets this morning and just had to have her come open the show.”
She gets through another couple of numbers before another amplified noise source – who knows where that one is coming from – starts up; eventually, a small group of around a dozen scoot into the Gallery, where it’s evident that the noise-bleed will be manageable… but only just.
After his first sentence on the little stage, I was convinced that Wayne James is amongst the most earnest performers I had ever seen. There is so much belief and conviction in his voice, so much wisdom in his timbre, that you cannot help but be swayed by his words. And he has a strong opening, speaking of how we – western culture, driven by the US-lead consumerist ideal – are effectively poisoning our children with meals tainted with toxic chemicals.
Which is a fair point, I must say. And it’s hard to not take his words seriously, as he outlines his family’s connection with the land – James describes his ancestral tree in detail, starting with the settling in rural Canada of his grandfather and the passing of the farm (and the forming of community) that had occurred since. But with the “necessity” to increase production comes the “need” for chemical assistance… a need driven by the snake-oil salesmen of capitalist corporations.
And I’m still totally with him at this point.
But the manner in which James anthropomorphises money is a little heavy-handed and clumsy; sure, the sentiment is in the right place, but I get the feeling that his focussed idealism muddles the message. When he starts mixing in references to Indian tribes, things get even more confused – and, curiously, more interesting. In particular, his closing piece – a recital of Chief Seattle‘s 1854 Oration – was a wonderful conclusion, with the closing line “there is no death, only a change of worlds” a beautiful highlight.
Wayne James’ monologue may appear unfocussed as he drifts from one segment to another, but there’s little doubting that his heart is in exactly the right place. What he lacks in polish he makes up for with authenticity.