"Eve St John is a poetry immersion where individuals come, spend time hearing poetry and their hands, feet and face are washed by the poet who shares the experience with them as a mute attendant," the show's creator, Brodie John tell me. "It's an 11-minute experience where spiritualities collide to subvert how we experience poetry and ritual in our modern lives. I selected the name based on the biblical characters of Eve who for me represents passion, nature, curiosity and motherhood, and John who represents cleansing, intimacy and transformation of the self. These themes are part of the experience and the poetry content."
Audience members have control the entire time of the show and they can choose how intimate they want the experience to be, so the washing is purely optional. "The provocation of the Melbourne Fringe this year is Out of the Echo Chamber, and I realised that to really say the things we need to, requires an incredible amount of trust. My passion in my creative outputs is consent, and so we've set up an experience that can be as intimate and unique as the ticketholder chooses," he says. "We provide a lot of information up front about how the experience works so the only surprise is the poetry and the messages. This allows each audience member to really relax into the workings and allow the poetry to stand out and be heard in an intimate setting."
During this cleansing routine, John has selected several works of poetry that explore spirituality in nature, gender and self-expression. "The poetry is informed by my stream of consciousness and prose that reveals my style as alliterative, twisted and ripe with drama. The content circulates through common themes - Eve St John really is a body of work almost like an album of poetry," he explains. "Although each audience member only experiences maybe five pieces, they are given a zine with all the work after the experience is over so they can see the full scope, which I'm excited about."
While John has followed various religions and faiths previously, he now refers to himself as an etherealist, and hoping that those who attend Eve St John come to consider the world around them differently. "What inspired me to create a piece like this was the way the world has become incredibly calculative and manipulative, where ritual is rare and the chance to experience creativity in deep ways has been compromised by fears imbued in us by our fear of one another - each other's politic, each other's potential for violence," he explains. "I wanted to invite people out of that space, respect their consent, and share work under those premises without distraction or disparagement."
"I've been very Christian in my time and was also part of a Wiccan coven for a while. Now I happily orbit between those two extremes, feeling spiritual, like there's something more than the physical we interact with that compels us to connect far more than we do in life," John says. "I absolutely feel there's room for spirituality; there is nothing but room for that in our lives. How that presents itself and the codes it creates for us is the challenge because human nature is not always desiring to cooperate, collaborate or cohere."
While John's performance may be all about him giving attention to his audience member and the show being formed based on their responses, he does admit that the work is not completely altruistic. "The reality is that I get an incredible amount of gratification from seeing how people respond to the poetry, to the elements of touch, to me as a character etc. One person reflected that I'm actually the audience member in many ways because I'm seeing the emotion play out," he tells me.
"That being said, it's absolutely a shared experience, with genuine nurturing going on that allows me to hear the work I've written in a new way so I definitely share in the enjoyment.
Art is how you transfer your soul's contents into the physical plane.
The best live show I've seen is A Game of You by Ontroerend Goed.
The best advice I was ever given is don't.
A song that describes my life is "Secret Spell" by Tori Amos.
A food I can't live without is spaghetti - I'm still Italian after all, plus it suits the artist's budget.
Venue: Testing Grounds, 1-23 City Rd, Southbank 3007
Season: 21 - 23 September | Thurs - Sat 6:30pm - 9:30pm