Saturday, 12 May 2018

Jupiter Orbiting - Next Wave Festival review

As you enter Jupiter Orbiting, creator and performer Joshua Pether is nervously decorating a table with Lego blocks, coloured paper and animal figurines. It feels like we are watching the preparation of a child's party, however with the rest of the stage empty and dark, there is trepidation in the air.

Using a science fiction narrative, this performative piece explores childhood trauma and grief, which Pether juxtaposes with scenes that are equally representative of innocence and naivety. From a distance, the coloured pieces of paper used at the beginning of the show resemble crushed origami cranes, a symbol of hope.  There's even contradiction in its title, alluding to the 12 years it takes for Jupiter to complete its orbital period. This could easily be the age that Pether is portraying, one that is full of liveliness and zest, yet the planet itself is desolate and void of any life.

This unease is best highlighted when Pether sits with his back to us, his gaze transfixed on a mash up of various children's cartoons projected onto the wall. With the volume muted there is something unsettling about how these huge images easily overpowered his frame, making Pether highly vulnerable and diminutive. While there is darkness to the work, there is also a transformative nature to it, and the calm and graceful concluding moments give weight to the power of healing and moving on over time.

Just as silence plays a part in this performance, so too does sound and Daniel Jentasch's 80s inspired science-fiction sound design envelops the audience and has us utterly drawn into the piece. The lighting design creates an intensely claustrophobic environment and Pether's giant shadows that come to life on the walls retain the intensity of Jupiter Orbiting.

Pether gives himself over to the performance and his body moves at speeds that feel inhuman, blurring the boundaries of reality and fantasy. The point where Pether tears through his black full bodysuit is a scene one generally sees in horror films, but signifies growth and change. His body convulsions on the table are difficult to watch as he manifests the distress that is occurring inside him.

With Jupiter Orbiting, Pether takes his suffering and offers an insight into his own situation, thus creating an engrossing and emotional work of art through his pain. It's an opportunity for the audience to question our own identity and how we can process events from our own lives and learn to move on.

Venue: Northcote Town Hall, 189 High St, Northcote
Season: until 13 May | 8pm
Length: 50 mins
Tickets: $28Full | $23Conc
Bookings: Next Wave 

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