Monday 29 April 2024

Peacemongers review

Bigotry. Discrimination. Exclusion. They can all go in the bin. We don't need them in society. In 2020, artist collective The People (headed by Morgan Rose and Katrina Cornwell) began to write about this. Along the way, a collaboration was formed with artists Sonya Suares, Samuel Gaskin, Kate Hood, İbrahim Halaçoğlu and Zachary Pidd, and gradually their approach changed from looking at what they don't like about society, to what they do like, and what a new world order should resemble, with a focus on inclusion. Which brings us to Peacemongers, an interactive, experimental, live art, musical theatre stage show that comes with dinner. Quite a mouthful!

Having seen this diverse group of performers (except for Halaçoğlu) in other projects, I was excited to see what the evening had in store for us. Hood unfortunately was unable to be part of the season due to interstate work, but she is cleverly kept as an integral member of the production through pre-recorded segments that blend in perfectly with the live performances. The group shares the challenges they have faced over the last four years, with references to covid and lockdown times and the numerous funding rejections they receive. They recall Peacemongers' evolution, including several working titles that reflected the nature of the project and the difficulties of creating a work that seeks to embrace everyone and provide a safe space for all.

From early on we see that this is a lesson in futility as concerns are posed within this group of just five people. Imagine if there were 50 or 500 or even 5000 people. Attention eventually rests on how disagreements are to be settled. They use a real-life American example of a bakery that refused to make a custom wedding cake for a gay couple based on the owner's religious beliefs. We don't really get far.

Dinner is also served and it's either a chicken or vegan curry, prepared by Moon Rabbit, an environmentally innovative social-enterprise café by not-for-profit organisation Bridge Darebin. If you don't get what you like, you are encouraged to negotiate with your neighbours and swap. We're all in this together after all, yet this seemingly simple act and request causes discomfort and anxiety. What if someone preferred chicken but they are stuck with vegan and too shy to say anything. What if no one wants to swap with the vegan who got chicken? One server is spotted offering an audience member a choice, which defeats the purpose of what we are meant to do, but maybe it's an intentional act to tell us that this new utopia is already cooked.

introduces some interesting truths but there are times when it tries to do too much and loses itself in unnecessary creative structures or devices. A crew member uses a camera to project a live feed of what is happening, but all it does is display on a screen what we are already seeing in the room. Every time the cast go through the meetings that took place, they make a noise to demonstrate they are fast forwarding through time. It's a silly, distracting noise that becomes needless once they begin telling us the date of when everything occurred.

The group has a list of items they need to determine if they will be brought in to the new utopia or not. As they have had a few shows already, our task is on things beginning with the letters G, H and I. An audience member is used for each letter, and they quickly work through the selections. Gender is out, gynaecologists who are male are in (but the room was not happy) and the classic 1990 song "Ice Ice Baby" is out (sacrilege!) However, this comes about during the food serving, and it results in a few people around me having their own conversations making it hard to hear and resulting with these moments losing their intended effect.

How do you review a work that is still in progress and establishing what it wants to be? How are audiences expected to view this show where it is artists talking about the obstacles of making work? While there's plenty of food for thought in this, less emphasis on the artists’ dilemma and more on the issue being explored would allow audiences to really consider what is being asked and how it would be possible. Valid points are raised with Peacemongers but in its current format it takes too long to get there, and you can't help feeling like it's bitten off more than it can chew.


Venue: Darebin Arts Centre, 401 Bell Street, Preston
 until 5 May | Wed - Sat 7:00pm, Sun 5:00pm
80 minutes
 $53 Full | $45 Conc (prices include dinner)
City of Darebin

Image credit: Darren Gill

No comments:

Post a Comment