Alma Mater

Posted on August 14, 2011


Empty rooms and family photos are reminders of things past, good and bad, now silent and packed away. It’s this sense of loss that Fish & Game’s haunting second piece captures so beautifully, weaving technology into dark fairytale.

Given an iPad and headphones, you’re placed, alone, before a closed door. An on-screen video, which mirrors what’s in front of you, prompts you to turn the handle and enter what turns out to be a bare white room. Inside is a white cupboard and a bed shrouded in a white sheet like a body in a morgue. An uncovered light bulb hangs from the ceiling. Strings, brass and piano play in your ears with the skip of a dancing child. And as the film pans the room, you’re compelled to do so, too, using the iPad as a view-finder.

What follows has the fragmentary intensity of memories half-lost or repressed. As you turn, a pair of shoes appears on the floor; then two children in striped pyjamas enter and play on the bed; day passes into night. As you move around the room, the images become more surreal and disturbing: a woman turns into dough on the bed as her daughter combs her hair. The man at her side turns to stare down at you, mute and accusing.

It’s powerful and unsettling as your perspective switches unpredictably between adult and child. One moment you’re leaning over the sleeping girl in her bed; the next, you’re staring upwards into the eyes of someone gripping the sides of the camera as if it were your head. The iPad becomes a window into hidden things; a conduit between past and present.

This is theatre as the ghost in the machine – a digital spark that brings to life people who’ve never existed and inscribes them on the surrounding space. It’s often lamented that walls can’t talk but, here, they do. It’s a voyeuristic, strangely self-compromising and unique experience that will linger with you for longer than its 20-minute running time.

First published by Exeunt Magazine

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Posted in: Theatre