Presented by MKA in Melba Spiegeltent, Being Dead (Don Quixote) is an exploration of being a woman and what it is to forge your own identity in a masculine world.
The set is relatively bare with the exception of an easel on the left that displays the various scene titles in the course of the performance and to the right a sort of gymnasts balance beam. Everything is pink and sparkles; a sort of play-room for Don Quixote’s wild imagination. Sporting a full-body skin-suit and backed up by two singers and an electric guitar, Kerith Manderson-Galvin swaps between the characters of Don Quixote, Sancho Panza and herself throughout the show by the cunning use of hats.
Fusing stories from her life alongside literary, musical and theatrical material, Manderson-Galvin creates a collage of narratives. She smashes and binds things together. Everything about the show points to postmodernism, but it merely presents the veneer of postmodernism – an empty package.
Perhaps this feeling can be attributed to the simple fact that the spectator isn’t given a language by which to understand the work itself. We were left dumbfounded by scenes such as “Blind Man’s Bluff” in which Don Quixote stood looking at the audience while a song played over the speakers, seemingly for no reason.
In a way, the disparity of the episodes means that “nothing happens”. But unlike Beckett’s Godot, whose inactivity can be understood and “read”, Being Dead is symbolically desolate precisely because the audience don’t manage to get a foothold into the work. Indeed, things do happen, they’re just so often lofty and unclear, caught in the realm of High Art and postmodern abstraction that it’s really quite difficult to gauge exactly what Being Dead is actually tackling.
The show is also let down by the energy from performers as frequent pauses in the heat of the moment drop the show to near-freezing temperatures.
The positive side to Being Dead comes from Manderson-Galvin’s writing. During sections where Don Quixote/Manderson-Galvin tells the audience a story (for instance, about her life and experiences) the writing is beautiful. At other times, the show is refreshingly evocative and stands out against the male-dominated backdrop of Midsumma Festival.