Friday 9 November 2018

The Infirmary review

There comes a point in life where it all ends. Life ends. While there are many theories as to what happens to us when we die, nothing is certain about what happens when we have breathed our final breath. Presented as part of Arts House's Mere Mortals season on death and all its facets, The Infirmary is a live art immersive experience designed to leave you questioning your death and what inevitably awaits us.

This is the first part of Triage Live Art Collective's Death Trilogy and in The Infirmary, we are prepared for our death and live through our final hours. This intimate show for a small number of participants begins with individuals being triaged by a clinical nurse. Once formally admitted, we are guided through a hospital corridor and numerous hospital rooms. Despite the movement that is occurring with the various nurses getting their "patients" comfortable, there is a quietness and stillness to my surroundings that I find immediately soothing.
I am led to my bed and change into a hospital gown before putting myself into bed. I am careful to slide in cautiously so as to keep my body cocooned within the tightly tucked in bed sheets. My nurse returns and over the course of the hour, I have a variety of death (and life) related experiences. At one point, I hear my heart beat through a stethoscope for the first time, and am asked to describe how it feels, to which I reply warm and comforting. Later, I listen to stories of people - both young and old - grappling with death, which while light-hearted in tone, still packs an emotional punch in how these anecdotes find their way into your heart and mind. All these moments culminate into something quite extraordinary when you check out of both your life within the performance and from the hospital/show.

Much attention has been paid in creating an authentic hospital environment with The Infirmary. The curtains that hang throughout the hospital , the dim lighting within the building, and the electric hospital beds where the head or foot of the bed can be lowered and raised are masterfully realised. The cast deliver considered performances as the nurses, providing a caring and personable nature without any sentimentality. 

While we are blindfolded for a good portion of the performance, the sounds that are played through our headphones and the flashes of various shades of light that pierce through our bandages leave us not only feeling like we are in hospital but actually passing through to the afterlife.

Towards the end of the show, I catch my reflection in a mirror and I am shocked by what I see. I appear to be refreshed and rejuvenated. I seem happier and calmer than I have in a long time. By contemplating death and the end of my life, I feel alive. It's a stunning beginning to Triage Live Art Collective's Death Trilogy and hopefully I can stick around long enough to experience the next installation, but even if I don't, death doesn't seem so frightening anymore.

Venue: Arts House, 521 Queensberry St., North Melbourne 
Season:  Until 18 November | Sat 1pm, 3:30pm and 6pm, Sun 1pm and 3:30pm, Wed - Fri 6pm and 8:30pm
Length: 70 minutes 
Tickets: $35 Full | $30 Conc | $25 Students
Bookings: Arts House

Photo Credit: Bryony Jackson

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