Past Production, Review

REVIEW | SITU-8: CITY | Nostalgia and revival combine

Review | Laura Money

Picture this: the sun is setting and you’re lining up outside your favourite theatre to see a movie. You can smell the popcorn, feel the excitement rise as you mount the stairs and hear the music drifting above your head. But something is wrong – the candy bar lies empty and cold, the stairs creak underfoot and the music is a creepy remnant of an abandoned theatre’s last ditch attempt to revive: Mr Demille, The Liberty Theatre is ready for its close-up. STRUT Dance and TURA are no strangers to site-specific works. They are both masters of utilising spaces in ways others wouldn’t dream of. In yet another year of SITU-8, this iteration CITY sees STRUT revamp the old Liberty Theatre – a gold rush era building that twists and turns with surprises and stories. After laying abandoned for 25 years, SITU-8: CITY inhabits every corner of this beautiful home of cinema. It’s a visceral plunge into a bygone era that explores body horror and the avatars we project our inner selves onto up there on the silver screen. Enter a haunting vestige of times gone by and be entertained again by this invigoratingly new yet nostalgic show.

Entering through a laneway, almost keeping the secrets of this stunning building to ourselves for just one more look, the empty cinema room stands – a mere shadow of its glory days. Inside the vast hall, exposed beams bear witness to Demake/Demaster a physical performance that combines found footage from cinema history and special effects to create a weird hybrid of body and screen. Questioning what it means to be a body and what occurs when we capture those bodies on screen, the piece provides a literal feedback loop as our screen mediated society is scrutinised in a chicken and egg scenario. Above and behind the scenes is the old projector box. This time, it’s Antonio Rinaldi in The Melody Haunts My Reverie which sees Rinaldi lip sync to old sound grabs from films. Adjacent to the first piece, Rinaldi provides a camp, drag-like performance with mannerisms reminiscent of the divas – Joan Crawford, Elizabeth Taylor, Katherine Hepburn. The sound bytes are haunting, like being in the middle of a dream and hearing the phone ring – it’s unnerving in the most delicious of ways. In between stage and projector comes La Dolente, a powerful spoken word and madrigal that explores notions of the female figure in fiction. What does the femme fatale say about cinema? Talitha Maslin explores the subtext of cinematic portrayals of women in an unflinching physical performance that sees the women up close and personal – weaving their truth throughout the audience, this time without the screen as a barrier. It’s a film studies class in the form of a feminist physical rending of heart and soul.

The set-up is clear: one big performance and then multiple vignette pieces to stumble upon once given free reign of The Liberty Theatre. This means that some things may not be seen but that’s just a great excuse to come back! There’s a futuristic piece reminiscent of Alien and Predator that thrusts you into the sci-fi genre and delves into the world of man and machine hybrids. The candy bar comes back to life as the figures of jaunty 1920s bathers peel themselves off the wall and move to a 1980s synthesised soundtrack that is jarringly whimsical and nostalgic, and all of these pieces combine to witness Mercury Bones which addresses identity and themes of intimacy, feelings which are usually evoked by cinematic experiences. SITU-8: CITY provides that delightful frisson between nostalgia and haunting. Every piece transports you to the world of film but digs deeper, exploring notions of celebrity, editing one’s persona, influence, and identity. It’s a pastiche of hyperreality, the transience of film, portrayals, and even just different eras and in that, SITU8: CITY sidesteps reality in the cocoon of The Liberty Theatre – as the world bustles around us on a busy city night, we escape together.

SITU-8: CITY played at The Liberty Theatre, Perth 1-11 November 2022. See what TURA and STRUT are doing in 2023.

The Fourth Wall acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land we engage in storytelling on – the Wadjhuk people of the Noongar nation. We pay respects to their elders past, present, and emerging.

Keep up with The Fourth Wall on Facebook and @fourth_wall_media on Instagram to see what we’re up to in 2022.