Perth’s theatre scene is full of enterprising people who want to work on creatively fulfilling projects that allow them to produce cutting-edge works, maintain artistic control, and provide Perth audiences with quality, unique productions.
This week in the spotlight, Cicely Binford catches up with Mark Storen and Renee Newman-Storen who together make up theMOXYcollective. Together with producer Georgia King (Little y Theatre) they delight in exploring the experiences of sharing public space.
When you’re walking through a public space, how much do you notice about the sights, sounds, smells, and people around you? Are you at ease navigating a crowded street, amongst strangers with different agendas, moving at different paces?
For those of us who are city-dwellers, sharing a public space with hundreds of people is probably a regular experience that elicits little more philosophical contemplation than brushing your teeth or putting on your shoes. But this notion of sharing public space is actually a complex and mysterious phenomenon that Little y Theatre Company and theMOXYcollective feel is worth investigating through performance.
Public Space is an evolving project whose genesis came out of a performance workshop in 2012 facilitated by Mark Storen through Little y. Mark and his wife of almost thirteen years, Renee Newman-Storen, make up theMOXYcollective, and they are co-directing the show, which is produced by Georgia King of Little y. They first mounted the show at Fringe World earlier this year and have been developing the concept and ideas through collaboration with a number of performer/devisors, who come and go as their careers allow. Mark and Renee have fostered a non-hierarchical creative environment around the work and, even though some contributors have left for other markets over east or overseas, they still get a mention in the programme.
So what is Public Space, and what are Little y and MOXY doing in it? I sat down with Renee and Mark, who turned the tables on me and asked me what I thought the piece was about, after only having read the press release. I had to admit that I really had no clue what the show would be like, no pre-conceptions, since I hadn’t seen the work at Fringe. Immersive theatre is still a relatively rare occurrence here in Perth, with only a few shows a year incorporating its audience directly into shows, with varying degrees of involvement and success. Mark and Renee then explained what the Fringe incarnation of Public Space looked like; they described their show as monologues in which private experiences were presented in public spaces.
These monologues were often unsettling, confrontational and intimate, according to Renee, and bringing them out-of-doors, amongst the tens of thousands of Fringe consumers, was the initial challenge that intrigued the group. The show was structured like a treasure hunt and as the audience moved from each locale, they were covertly filmed. The footage was then e-mailed back to base camp, where it was edited to be shown to the audience at the very end.
After the Fringe season the piece has morphed slightly, but a similar sort of treasure-hunt structure remains intact. In this incarnation, currently showing at the Joondalup Twilight Markets on Friday nights, there is an emphasis on one-on-one experiences between the ‘inhabitants’ (performers) and each audience member. Rather than delivering monologues, the players are mostly mute, serving in large part as sensory guides leading audience members through the Public Space of Joondalup’s main walk on its busiest night of the week.
The audience is first led into a carpark where Georgia King (producer and performer) is waiting in a bright yellow dress to give us our instructions for the evening. She invites us to use the map we’ve been given to navigate our experience. We don’t have to stay in groups, we can venture off on our own, linger at one locale, go back to others time and time again; it’s up to us to choose our own adventure. We just look for the houses drawn in chalk on the pavement and we’ll know we’re in the right spot to engage with one of the players.
The experiences range from things that are more presentational, such as a pole acrobat, a woman in a kimono fishing from a balcony delivering messages from the end of her line, a ‘road worker’ directing foot traffic while towing a portable sound system, and a woman in a long velvet dress moving at a glacial pace down the centre of the markets. These tend to make you focus on how the general public deals with the unexpected spectacle, while you, as a paying audience member, start to feel part of the performance, too.
Then there are the intimate, one-on-one experiences between the players and individual audience members. In one particular encounter, I was invited to sit down, close my eyes, and let the performer ‘be my eyes’. I have to admit it took all my willpower not to open my eyes to have a peek at what she was about to do. I had to entrust my senses to her, which was personally challenging. However I was rewarded with the very subtle and gentle sensory delights of hearing water decanted into a vessel, being given a cool sip of water to drink, and feeling the same cool water trickle over each of my hands, one at a time. It gave me chills and made me smile, even as I was aware that the general public were passing nearby, probably puzzled at the procedure.
This is just a brief overview of what happens in Public Space in its current form. I asked Renee and Mark what they think Public Space might evolve into next, and they said it would likely be site-specific, so that rather than bringing in a set of already developed experiences, they would let the site itself be the birthplace of a new set of experiences.
There’s only one performance left in Joondalup, however, so unless you get in on the action this Friday, you’ll have to wait until the next incarnation of Public Space to have your own experience.
Limited tickets will be available from Blender Gallery on the night (cash only)
Friday 7.00pm, 22 November to 20 December
** Meet at the Blender Gallery **
PLACE: Joondalup Twilight Markets, Central Walk, Joondalup CBD
TICKETS: $25… numbers are very limited