by Tara Beckett.
Every so often, I like to stray from the safety and familiarity of comedy and venture into the hugely metaphoric and painfully deep arena of contemporary art. Luckily, the Melbourne Fringe is a festival that showcases not just comedy and more mainstream performances, but also houses fascinating pieces of theatre, and I’d be hard-pressed to think of something more fascinating than …him.
Often sad, sometimes funny and ultimately poignant and intriguing, …him is set in a world of newspaper-lined walls and centered on a lonely and isolated individual, the titular ‘him’. Directed by Kat Henry, the show was devised and performed by New Zealand born Barnie Duncan, and it is simply a breath-taking piece of art. The audience is seated in amongst the set; perched upon classroom tables and stacks of newspapers, and it makes for a unique experience as a viewer.
…him’s odd protagonist is both alluring and off-putting. He is clearly not quite right, a man far removed from society and busy with his work, its importance apparent only to himself. His self-imposed isolation is damaging and his mad and amusing mutterings are juxtaposed against a wonderful child like inquisitiveness as he attempts to make sense of a world outside of his room. A world that he only sees on paper.
Barnie Duncan is a beautiful performer. His use of the space is precise and purposeful. He keeps his focus brilliantly, staring right through the audience and never breaking character. The show is different every night, with most of the content sourced by whatever happens to be in the newspaper that day.
Whether or not you enjoy …him, really depends on what you make of it. As interesting as it is puzzling, contemporary theatre pieces can be polarising; separating those who ‘get it’ or at least protest that they do, and those who come away from a show scratching their heads and wondering what just happened. The latter are accused of dim-witted ignorance and the former of snobbish pretention and false intellectualism, when neither is necessarily true. As with comedy, all art forms are subjective and subjectivity may include interpretation of the content itself. Although the outlines of the narrative are concrete, audience members may read into the themes differently. There is no right and wrong here, art is not mathematics, and rules do not apply. Whatever you get out of …him may be entirely unique to the majority, but if you go in with an open mind you’ll be able to appreciate the work that has gone into this constructed world.
This is high concept art and won’t be to everyone’s liking. Not to mention that sitting on stacks of newspapers for an hour isn’t the most comfortable thing in the world, but the stiffness is worth it for the chance to visit this charming little world. So why not try something new?
You won’t regret it.
Playing NOW until October 8 @ The Tuxedo Cat B.
Level 3, 277 Flinders lane, Melbourne
9.45pm, Sun 8.45pm (60mins)
Full Price: $ 15
Concession: $ 12
Tuesday: $ 10
Group: $ 10
(per person for 4 people)
FOR BOOKINGS: Visit melbournefringe.com.au
OR CALL: (03) 9660 9666