Playground a New World Order is at the Arts House, Meat Market
Playground, devised by Panther, a pair of performance artists from Melbourne, is an attempt to walk a line between performance art, audience participation and installation with an emphasis on site intervention. Because of this multi faceted approach, Playground, although great fun, lacked cohesion.
The performance is for an audience of twelve, the less people that know each other the better. Coming out into the meat market proper, there is the playground. After a halted start we begin to play, directed by the two performers in charge. We white middle class adults are used to these games from childhood and take to them easily. During the game intricacies of behavior follow, for example the friends who came to the performance together, much more willing to play with each other than with the strangers sharing the space.
The main body of the piece, playing chasey, has the added element of the argument. This is an attempt to get to know each other, to tell each other of our strengths and weaknesses, real or imaginary. The rules change frequently, as happens in child’s play, as certain rules, forms of engagement, seem to work more than others, or as people in the space become confused by the complicated rules. This is what the piece is punctuated by, the rupture of the worlds of adults and children into a frenzied dialogue of physicality and words.
It is this avalanche of thoughts, behaviors, rules, and the difference between the adult and child’s body in play that Panther seem to be trying to highlight, a disentanglement that is not always coherent. The play is fun and chaotic, but so is the relationship of the audience to the two performers who are not entirely in charge. If this piece was tending more towards theatre maybe casting a pair of actors might have been better.
The laying out of rules, the highlighting of human behaviors, the ultimate feeling of loneliness that comes from chasing after strangers, desperate to make contact are all there, but members of the group are too either busy in the physical exertion of their play to concentrate, or are too busy forming cliques, sharing secrets in the space to listen to what those in charge are trying to say. This could work as an extended metaphor, which the chaos of life versus moments of introspection and anxiety are hard to separate. But at the end of the piece, when that juxtaposition is then highlighted by the artists, making it lose its subtlety.
But what the hey! I had a lot of fun. I mean a lot. We don’t get to play like that anymore, and if a certain amount of thoughtfulness and introspection comes from the piece in the end, then why not roll your sleeves up and dive into the tan bark.
Playground, a New World Order is at the Arts House, Meat Market, 5 Blackwood Street, North Melbourne.
Dates: Thursday, 13 August to Friday, 14 August at 6.15pm, 7.15pm and 9.15pm. Saturday, 15 August at 4.15pm, 6.15pm, 7.15pm and 9.15pm.
Bookings: Book at Easytix or phone (03) 9639 0096