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[Review] Mess

By John Lombard


Belco Arts

Reviewed 1 October. On until 2 October.

Mess is inspired by Japanese hikikomori; adults that embrace confinement and shun society.

In 2020, many of us have experienced a similar involuntary quarantine, and the frenzy that can come from having the world reduced to only your pacing thoughts. Isolation may starve the senses, but it can also electrify the body with frantic, insistent impulses.

For director Natsuko Yonezawa, withdrawal from the world is not a nourishing sanctuary but a purgatory of inescapable rage and anguish.

When the performers in this movement piece curl up, it is not because they feel cosy, but because their untidy minds are ravenous for stimulation they can only find in how their bodies can jerk and distort.

Movement artists Chrisopher Samuel Carroll and Miriam Slater perform this piece not only with the display of their bodies, but in the agitated twitches of their wary eyes.

In white smocks that resemble straitjackets and with skin painted sallow, the performers could easily be forgotten prisoners of an asylum. But activities like showering, watching tv, pacing, and posing in front of the mirror anchor this piece in the tortures of the banal.

Carroll is as nimble and alert as ever, using his expressive limbs and delicate balance with great panache. Slater is equally inspired, but with deliberateness that speaks of power and focus.

For most of the performance the pair circle each other, two lonelyhearts apartment tenants that glimpse each other in the hallway but never speak. When they do touch, they scrutinise each other closely to make sure they soothe and not harm. However, despite their similarities, they retain a flicker of suspicion that flowers into resent.

Music from composer Marlene Caludine Radice was beautiful but threatening, while Linda Buck’s ominous lighting gave the sense that we watched the action through a spyhole.

Assistant director and producer Chenoeh Miller’s touch was apparently most evident in the fuzzy opening and closing of the show, giving the audience the ultimate power to engage and disengage.

With the necessity of socially distant seating, sightlines were uneven, disruptive to an experience dependent on visual detail and storytelling.

At one point, Carroll and Slater assemble skyscrapers out of boxes, and they become pilgrims in a concrete forest.

In quarantine, isolation is not only imprisonment: it is a refuge against danger. But to be human is to crave mess, and the pair smash this artificial womb.

Each box could be an apartment, with its own hikikomori.

But each box also has a single hole: for light, for life, for breath.

Suitable for ages 16 years +


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