There’s a hairy drag queen in a sequined dress lying on a lounge, bathed in magenta light. There are cow skulls sitting on shelves next to vials of curious things and strange artefacts. There are two black-clad angels with white wings posed on either side of the room. There is music in the air, a kind of music that makes you think you’ve arrived in some deep inner sanctum. In fact, you have.
The lounging drag queen awakes and comes forth to perform some kind of mysterious ritual. The angels attend and we realise we are watching God at work on her creation. Scene two plunges us into the moral struggles of the two attending angels. Love is the matter, God’s love, humanity’s love, the angels’ love. God is needy, jealous, vain, self-obsessed; the angels long for something more, or different, than God’s pure love and they are conflicted. One wants to leave her Heavenly life behind in favor of more earthly pursuits, while the other is reluctant to change. In confronting their love for each other, something happens that alters their fate forever.
After the interval, we move into a different space, a different piece. We are in a small apartment, completely fitted out with bed, dresser, chair, sink, kettle, toaster, television; a person could actually live in this room, with style. There are echoes of the previous space, vials of curious things, artefacts, but there are also potted plants, signs of domesticity; crouched in the corner of this urban jungle hut is a man in khakis. A young woman wakes to the sound of an alarm and begins her morning routine, turning on the telly, popping a crumpet in the toaster, turning on the kettle, flossing and brushing her teeth, all while the man in the corner describes the human condition to us. He talks about humans as “the third chimpanzee” and observes, nature guide-style, the odd habits of this creature.
These are two separate but connected pieces written by Joe Lui. They are very different in form, the first having a definite story arc, the second being more of a performance art piece with a narrator-cum-lecturer. There is visual continuity and a loose continuity of characters. The piece prompts us to think about subjects that don’t cross our minds on an average day, and asks us to consider the Judeo-Christian creation narrative in a very different way. Lui is an archer with an endless supply of arrows in his quiver; he takes aim at all and sundry, himself included.
It’s a work in progress, but that’s not to say that this first outing felt unfinished or nebulous. The second piece verged on lecture at times, as Grabovac delivers a rather wordy treatise; also, a parable was sort of grafted into the piece, perhaps to add some element of narrative. This parable could probably be extracted and developed in its own right to become a third section of The Tribe. The work should indeed have a third movement and I’m guessing it eventually will in some future incarnation.
Grabovac was a God like I’ve never seen and one whom I actually pitied; Westall’s fervor and determination is tangible and infectious; and Hetherington’s inner turmoil in both pieces is sincere and easy to empathise with. They are perfect conduits for the story and the ideas Lui presents in this universe they have created with gorgeous, spooky, detailed design by India Mehta and clever videography by Mia Holton. This is collaboration at its finest and it is abundantly clear that the whole group is well in sync, stylistically and philosophically.
I look forward to seeing the outcome of The Tribe’s next phase of development.