Sunday 6 May 2018

SEER - Next Wave Festival review

Using Edgar Allan Poe’s short story Shadow – a Parable as its inspiration, experimental theatre artist and stage designer House of Vnholy's SEER is an immersive exploration of darkness and silence and a study on being alone. Performed as part of the Next Wave Festival, this site-specific show at the Darebin Arts Centre combines ritual and poetry to encourage us to consider not only our life and our death but also the part in between.

The most powerful part of SEER takes place inside the main theatre of the Darebin Arts Centre where you took a seat in a specially designed booth facing the stage. There was something very eerie about being the only person in a theatre that can seat almost 400 people. I constantly felt like figures were emerging from the stage, standing up from the seats and staring at me through the darkness. No doubt the haunting soundscape designed by Jannah Quill contributed to this disorientation, and along with the light images being projected onto the stage, I was continually questioning if I was experiencing a painful death or an uplifting rebirth.

While this centre point of the performance is executed well, it is the beginning and the ending that left me unsatisfied, and despite the time spent at them, felt incomplete. Shows such as SEER, need to not only allow the audience member a sense of being in control - or at least a perceived notion of being so - but to also make sure they are being guided enough so that they don't start questioning their actions or choices. In this instance, there were times I was uncertain as to what I was supposed to be doing and when or if I should be moving on. Should I be waiting for instructions or for something to happen that would help me make a decision? In thinking about this, the initial feelings that would sweep through me when I entered each area began to lessen as I was drawn back into the reality of my situation, that I was in a performance. 

Despite its advertised running time of 45 minutes, I abruptly came to the end of my journey of SEER within 30 minutes. Shadow – a Parable is rich with ideas and thoughts on how to explore life and death and it would have been great for this work to go a little further with it and retain the heightened dread and unease that Poe's short story carries. In its current form, even at 30 minutes long, it felt like my death was drawn out far more than what was needed.

Venue: Darebin Arts Centre, Cnr Bell St & St Georges Rd, Preston.
Season: until 8 May | Every 15 minutes, Mon 12pm - 10pm, Tues 12pm - 7pm
Length: 45 minutes
Tickets: $18
Bookings: Next Wave Website 

Photo Credit: Ryan Wheatley

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