Nicola Dunn’s unique voice comes through full-blast in the deeply personal Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster. It felt as if the performer was standing proudly naked before us, fully exposed: fragile and strong at the same time, telling hard truths and confronting inner dilemmas.
A small incident becomes an opportunity to explore something much bigger. A man is throwing stones at an innocent duck by a river while a woman (Dunn) is jogging along the river; she sees him and intervenes. An unpleasant exchange ensues as the man gets angry at the intruder.
The story is then told again and again from every single point of view: the man, the woman, the duck. Then the situation is reversed. “What if someone reproached me while I was doing something wrong? Would I tell them to mind their own business?” she says. We give ourselves reasons to act a certain way even when we know it is ‘wrong’. The real challenge is to understand the other.
As she narrates, Dunn moves her body in a way that could be described as a mix of interpretative dance, mime and yoga. The ‘choreography’ looked intentionally awkward and forced, echoing the story, deliberately disconnecting words and movement as if two different texts were happening at the same time, or one was serving as the subtext to the other and every so often the two layers would intersect. It just inexplicably worked.
“What the f**k am I doing?” she asks in the middle of a convoluted sequence, a recurrent question for a theatre-maker during the devising process. She then stops and changes direction. The random act of creation is an artist’s prerogative, like throwing a dice in a dark room and stumbling upon your material. The show felt like a collage of different fragments, but Dunn succeeded in keeping it together thematically.
Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster reminds us of the precious qualities we crave in contemporary performance; the irreverence, the brutal honesty, the performer unapologetically in your face. She was merciless, but with herself too. We all believe we have a right to be ourselves and to be doing what we do. Then who’s right and who’s wrong? Our actions have an impact and we should take responsibility for them. It is everyone’s business, for we are all in this together.
Presented by Mobile States and Brisbane Powerhouse, Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster was presented as part of the World Theatre Festival.