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Studio Underground, The State Theatre Centre

Saturday, October 25, 2014

They say there are two sides to every story, and so follows the premise of Performing Lines WA’s latest dance theatre work Overexposed. According to the show’s terse and mysterious tagline, “Two rooms. One story. Nothing is private,” we should expect to be privy to two perspectives on a single event, which in itself doesn’t necessarily promise anything groundbreaking. But it’s the words “two rooms” that offer the most intriguing clue into the show’s singularity; therein lies the mystery that we the audience must delve into.

For the sake of clarity, we can distill this piece down to its two basic elements: director/performer Danielle Micich tells this story through movement, while Humphrey Bower uses text written by Suzie Miller. But this is an oversimplification of Overexposed, and may not be enough to hook audiences to come and see this truly unique, immersive performance. So to elucidate further, let’s begin, just as the show does, from the foyer.

Once we descend the staircase down to the Studio Underground foyer, we join a queue to pass through a metal detector; various items in glass cases show us prohibited items, and officers are barking orders. We deposit our belongings into bins for inspection; some pass through the metal detector without setting it off, but those of us who get beeped step to one side before being directed to the appropriate entrance to the theatre.

My group is ushered down another stairwell to one of the State Theatre Centre’s rehearsal rooms. It’s warm, the air is close, and there’s a sickly yellow light shining across the space from a high window. A shade descends mechanically, cutting off that light and we are confined in blackness. We wait. Then Humphrey Bower appears against a screen at the back of the room; he approaches, introduces himself as a detective, and begins interrogating us collectively as a single character. We learn that we are being detained at the Bali airport and he is trying to pin something on us.

But while this procedural drama ensues, we wonder what has happened to the other part of the audience who were ushered into the other room. Are they being questioned too? Are they seeing a mirror image of our performance, or something completely different? When would Micich join our side of the story? Would she show up at all?

Eventually she does. Eventually the other room is revealed, and we discover that what we’ve seen is nothing like what the other half saw. So this raises a whole new set of questions — who saw the “real” story? What did Bower say to the other side? Did they see something better? I had sent my companion to the other room so she could report back to me afterwards, but would her testimony be enough to satisfy my curiosity about what I missed out on? And is this whole construct a ploy to get more money out of audiences (who are invited to return to see the other side at a reduced ticket price), or does it simply serve to convey the work’s meaning?

To reiterate, therein lies the mystery. Our physical limitations prevent us from getting the full story, so how can we draw accurate conclusions? Overexposed posits that our experience of reality is based on consensus, so it’s best if you each get along and draw your own conclusions.


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