I want to tell you about a thrillingly terrifying, perplexing then surprising, immersive on a scale you cant imagine, performance adventure of Macbeth that I went to see but first I need to tell you about an exhibition of miniatures at the New Art and Design museum, because that, my dears, is where the theatrical unreal/real experience of wonder began.
With the majority of galleries and museums closed for the summer the pickings of what to see are a little slim. Slim by New York’s standards is still 40 or 50 more kilos fatter than the picking’s in Melbourne, so I have still been getting about to a decent number of galleries. But oddly there was a miniature show on that my friend was super keen to see – it’s hard to understand why artists who live in the city don’t just want to go to MOMA every day of the week but hey, off we went to the New Art and Design museum which was exhibiting dioramas. Ridiculously precise renditions of artists studios, hair salons, itty bitty villages frozen under ice, a violin makers workshop and library all with tiny people and teeny books the world shrunken with a ray gun was there. The one small problem I have with dioramas is that Im not singularly impressed by craftsmanship, I always want a bit of content in there, something more to think about than just “Man that’s small.” A couple of pieces in this show did stand out – a reduced scale skyscraper just slightly taller than the average person, in which you could view from one single window an open plan austere office. But the office stretched out to a far distant horizon seemingly miles away, which makes you mover back and visually measure the outer dimensions of the skyscraper again. Also at one single desk was a hologram of a rotating ghost chair, it was captivating how your mind knew that the office was small but visually it just looked bigger, it was both miniature and vast and it undid logic in my brain. A different work which had us gasping, laughing and repeatedly saying “NOOOOO. Really??? Ahhhh oh my god what?” was made up of 2 strips of tiny LED’s in a short single file down the wall, it looked not surprisingly just like 2 strips of tiny LED’s in a short single file down the wall until you walked passed it without looking directly at it, then BAM you could see a 3D eye blinking at you or the word “See”. Perception is a perplexing thing and I love to art that contradicts my expectations.
But lets get to the peak of excitement in the story.
Later that evening we went to a performance called ‘Sleep no more’. The premise was that it was a postmodern version of Macbeth in which scenes are acted out in different locations and the audience moves around the venue at there own discretion. We arrived at 11pm and were told to check in our bags, jumpers or jackets, phones, cameras etc, we entered a long long labyrinthine deep black maze which ended up in a cozy dark jazz club. At this point you are firmly separated from your friends, ushered into a small room where you are told that you are no longer allowed to speak, that you must wear a mask at all times and that you must explore this alone, that there will be others with black masks who are not there to guide you and that you will be rewarded for your curiosity! They then shuffled a group of you into a lift and deposited you on different floors.
Oh no – what’s going to haaaaapen to me!
The set was a hotel circa 1940’s. Let me say that again the set was … an entire hotel. About 6 stories high with never ending corridors, hundreds of rooms, false rooms with in rooms and darkness was every where and the music was an intensely load horror movie genera sound track. Every inch of the building was a highly crafted meticulous set, there were secret passages, doors got locked behind you, sometimes other audience people would enter a room but you would get locked out, at first I cynically thought “oh this is like a walking ghost train, or a house of horrors type of thing”, but the shear scale of it and the Macbeth-ness of it consumed you. It was as if the dioramas from earlier in the day had grown up around us and we tentatively felt our way through, watched, discovered, and missed 3 hours of the essence of Macbeth.
These are some of the things I expereienced:
a child’s room deserted and dusty, one wall was made of dark glass and when you pressed your nose against it you could faintly see an exact replica of the child’s room on the other side but… the sheets were bloody stained,
A dance piece on a four poster bed – the persuasion of Lady Macbeth
A dance in which Lady Macbeth
Many many scenes of people washing shirts, towels, walls and sheets in strange space a clock rooms, in hospital wards, in bath tubs.
A detective offices with filing cabinets full of records you can read
A candy store where you could eat anything you wanted
A foggy moor the size of school gymnasium with a labyrinth that makes you feel like you’re destined for the mental institution
A graveyard, complete with an earth floor and ruined buildings and so dark you stub your toes and cant see the end of the room
Information every where notes, letters, posters, messages scratch inside draws, diaries of book shelves – hard to know what was relevant and what was not, but you could read it all.
A ballroom that I couldn’t get out of no matter how many different exists I tried to escape from, the first time a stage was set with a long white clothed table and at it sat 8 actors in slow motion violence and excess at this point about 40 audience members had appeared at the same time. The next time I went in there it was a forest of Christmas trees and not a single audience member in site.
Everything moment felt suspenseful violent and passionate and bloodied and gruesome and sinister and insane and intense. But Macbeth isn’t a rom com is it.