From the Rubble (4 stars)
Review by Charlotte Guest
From the Rubble is, primarily, about ‘transmission’. Inspired by the war correspondence of Western Australian journalist Sophie McNeill, this performance-piece constitutes a response to global events that are narrated by to us newsreaders and reporters. From the Rubble concentrates on correlations between the lives of civilians in conflict zones and the manner in which we digest these stories in distant and comparably stable societies.
This intersection between the stories of civilians in war ravaged areas, and the effects of their retelling to a dislocated audience, allows a number of themes to arise. The set, for instance, made almost entirely of white paper with serrated edges, evoked both the transience of the lives and possessions of people affected by war and ephemerality of such news reports that pass through our daily lives. It also recalls the material of the investigative journalist: paper and pen, the ‘recorded story’. At different times, the actors donned paper masks and dresses, a haunting but not accusatory reminder of the anonymity of war and, as spectators, our tendency to forget.
The set, engineered by visual designer Fleur Elise Noble, also acted as a screen onto which a series of different monochrome images were projected. The projections alternated between stop-motion film of paper figurines, collage and documentary footage that had a deliberately disconcerting effect on the audience. Noble effectively used light and shadow, black and white, to evoke the ghosts of those caught in the crossfire of someone else’s war.
Complementing the visuals was an impressive soundscape composed by Mei Saraswati and Joe Lui, the most impactful element of which was the random explosions and gunfire. Lulled into a false sense of security by humming and gentle melodies (mimicking the cooing of mothers and families to children), such explosions visibly rattled the audience and shook their sense of stability. It brought the reality of conflict closer, made it applicable to the lives of those who may have never really known it.
For both its artistic experimentalism and political immediacy, I highly recommend From the Rubble and encourage all to attend. The show will run every evening until 28th March at PICA.