Saturday 23 September 2017

Sonder - Melbourne Fringe Festival review

How do you review a show in which you are the only audience member and the outcome of the show depends on what you say and do? This is what happens in Sonder and for that reason, this is more of a personal response than a review. Presented as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, Catherine Holder's Sonder is a 15-minute participatory show in which you make a bed with the performer.

As a word, sonder is a relatively new one that means "the realisation that each random passer-by is living a life as vivid and complex as your own - populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness". Through the simple act of making a bed, Holder does in fact make you stop and think about this. Sonder is an opportunity to pause and reflect.

Once you enter the space, you are given time to select what materials you wish to use for the task ahead. Do you want cushions? Will you choose the floral fitted sheet or the black one? Do you need two pillowcases? Once you have collected your items you walk through and meet Holder. She has great warmth to her so despite being a complete stranger, we immediately establish a friendly rapport. Living in such a digital age, Holder seeks to explore human-to-human connection through the exploration of the familiar contrasted with the unknown of having a stranger present.

Holder ensures you have agency the entire time and remain safe and comfortable during the process. You can make the bed properly (whatever that means to you), or just throw everything on it. You can watch her do it or you can do it all yourself. Me being me, I chose to make sure that it was made to perfection and I admitted to Holder that I had never made a bed with anyone before (except with my parents) so the dynamics of getting the duvet into the cover was a new experience for me.

We discuss why I chose the items I did and how I make my bed at home and it's strange how much you can learn about a person - and yourself - from a brief chat about bedding. There are a few other things that occur during Sonder but to tell you would ruin the surprise and its spontaneity, but they are carefully thought out activities that work towards switching your mind off and being present and focusing on what is directly in front of you.

In Sonder, Holder successfully blurs the line between performer and participant so that we are both equal. The show is an opportunity to begin to contemplate and explore our relationship with others, with ourselves and with our world. As I leave the comfort of my new bedroom, a calmness surrounds me, and I hope it's a calmness that continues to surround me.

Show Information

Venue: No Vacancy Project Square, The Atrium, Federation Square, Melbourne.
Season:  Until 24 September | Sat 5pm - 8pm, Sun 12pm - 5pm 
Length: 15 minutes, sessions run every 20 minutes.
Tickets: $23 Full | $18 Conc
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

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