Thoughts inspired by Report from the Interior by Eliza Rescue Team. Hebbel Am Ufer (HAU 3, 25-26/10/17)
Why do we create?
There’s no definite way of answering this question. I know that. However, this is the question that was ringing in my ears when I left the theatre on Wednesday night, after having seen Report from the Interior by Eliza Rescue Team. Truthfully, I think I was asking myself that question because I was frustrated; I had got so little from the performance. Reports from the Interior seemed kind of cool and spacey when I discovered it on the Hebbel am Ufer website. It explored life in the abstract and considered the Mars One Mission. I liked some of the techno soundtrack. Some of the props were cool, like the animal masks. But I felt let-down by the piece overall.
When the performers came onstage at the beginning, lay on the ground in a star formation and an instrumental version of ‘Rocket Man’ by Elton John began playing, I got really excited. I thought this was going to be some gorgeous I’m-not-a-“dancer”-but-I-will-dance choreography – like you would see in Tank (Breach Theatre), Eurohouse (Bertrand Lesca/Nasi Voutsas) or Dancing About (Gob Squad). But the performers looked bored and shy – and not in an endearing way, but in a way which said they weren’t really that present or into what they were doing.
Afterwards I did consider the fact that perhaps other people had enjoyed it. Maybe it just wasn’t my style? I hated the film Melancholia by Lars von Trier and therefore perhaps I just have a problem with encountering art which is slow and foreboding, because I don’t want to confront death or the dark aspects of life? As well, Reports from the Interior has definitely got me thinking about the relationship between art, utopia and dystopia. Just before I left for the theatre, I had been chatting with a friend about Fredric Jameson’s famous quote: “It has become easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism”. Could it be argued that artists have a… responsibility to imagine the end of capitalism? To imagine and create utopias beyond the gloom of the world we currently live in?
No. That’s simplistic. Of course, art is all about freedom of expression. Plus, who’s to say what is hopeful and what isn’t? Not for a second do I think that theatre is about performers and makers showing the audience a utopia in the Thomas Moore sense, setting out plans for a totally new way of life. We need theatre that confronts dark topics. The plays I mentioned earlier, that I love – Tank, Eurohouse and Dancing About – they were all at times disturbing. What I think of when I consider utopia and art is along the lines of feminist theorist Angelika Bammer:
My goal is to replace the idea of ‘a utopia’ as something fixed, a form to be fleshed out, with the idea of ‘the utopian’ as an approach toward, a movement beyond set limits into the realm of the not-yet-set.
(qtd in Jill Dolan, Utopia in Performance, 2005: p.6-7)
Utopia is an approach; a process. In my experience, it hits in flashes. In moments. In sharing a connection with other people. It’s feeling something deeply in the theatre. (Is it empathy?) The scream and tears that burst out of me when I saw TORYCORE (Lucy Ellinson/Chris Thorpe/Steve Lawson). It’s what drives us to make performance. It’s what pulls us into the theatre in the first place. As Jill Dolan writes in Utopia in the Theatre (2005), “Performance allows us to see utopia as a process of spending time” (p.13). Spending time with other people in a shared moment, stretching beyond the limits of ourselves and individuals – taking the time to really think and feel together.
And there… maybe that was my problem with Report from the Interior? The void between the performers and the audience. The inaccessibility of any kind of connection between us. To the point where – honestly – I didn’t really care about their sci-fi “stage essay”. I just wanted to earth and to attach to something.