Friday 15 February 2019

Forgotten Places - Performance Installation Review

What: Forgotten Places: From The Past a Future Begins
When: 13 - 17 February 2019
Where: The Mezzanine, Chapel Off Chapel
Directed by: Jayde Kirchert
Composed by: Imogen Cygler
Performed by: Jordan Barr, Kayla Hamill, Tomas Parrish, Willow Sizer, and Margot Tanjutco
Art designed by: Stu Brown
Costumes by: Aislinn Naughton
Margot Tanjutco
In a world obsessed with dystopian forecasting Citizen Theatre bring us something very, very different in the immersive experience of Forgotten Places: From The Past A Future Begins. You can enter their world of happy ending on The Mezzanine at Chapel Off Chapel and I guarantee you will smile and laugh and feel good for at least one hour of your life as you share this experience with the ensemble.

Forgotten Places began as a community project where residents of Stonnington were invited to take a photography walk with the Citizen Theatre team. Walking down lanes and the 'forgotten' spaces of the district, participants were encouraged to photograph elements of the environment which caught their eye.

Some of the photos were collated for further development and Brown went on to turn those photos into colourful abstractions and then further combine them into larger walls of art which form the architecture of the performance space. You can see in his earlier work that Brown loves bold,  bright colours and abstracted shapes so the outrageously positive and upbeat tone and 'in your face' joy of Forgotten Places comes as no surprise. The intriguing architectures and layers and colours of Stonnington were the perfect palette for him to riff off artistically!

Aislinn Naughton also tends to favour colour blocking and strong geometrics in her design work and her costumes are the perfect compliment to Brown's world. The characters come off as some sort of clown/psychopomp hybrid taking us through a layered garden of hope and possibility. They flit from room to room welcoming, guiding and amusing together and apart but always alongside us and each other.

You might be tempted to think that with all this colour and the gorgeous Play School style song cycles by Cygler that Forgotten Places is a show for children. Whilst it absolutely is perfect for the little ones, there is great depth of content and ideas cleverly devised by the ensemble for the adults too. We are just so used to thinking positivity is for kids and negativity is for grown ups that it would be easy to misread this event.

The world of Forgotten Places is split into four rooms; The Water Room which focusses on movement and dance, The Gift Room which is the home of Cygler on keys and is a place of songs, The Fun Room in which comedy and storytelling abound, and then finally there is The Mirror  Room which is a space of reflection. The program includes a map and a performance order you can choose to plan out for yourself, but Forgotten Places is really a 'build you own' experience, and you can wander from room to room as the mood takes you (or as the performers may guide you).

Forgotten Places is an experience of great beauty. Moments which stand out for me include the three goddesses (Barr, Hamill and Sizer) populating the water tanks with fish in The Water Room - every birth an angelic chorus of joy. Barr's 'Welcome Fruit' skit in The Fun Room was also hilarious and a wonderful commentary on the difficulties of communication and the rewards of patience. It is also a subtle homage to the less fortunate members of the community.

I also adored Parrish's 'Your Name Is' performance in The Fun Room. Again a beautiful combination of welcome and celebration as well as acknowledging members of the community with disability.

As I mentioned earlier some of Cygler's compositions repeat in childlike wonder such as the song 'Come And See This Place I'm In' which cycles with each act and continues the sense of warmth, welcome, belonging and permission. There are deeper moment with the more complex composition n The Gift Room though. As Parrish sang the lyrics 'Where day is dark and dark is bright' I instantly thought of winter skys and then busy nights on Chapel Street.

The Gift Room is an intriguing space as well. Whilst you listen to the songs there are three bowls with little scrolls. One bowl is a gift to you, another is a gift for someone you love who isn't there, and the thirds is a gift to be given to someone you don't know.

Like these little scrolls, Forgotten Places feels like a gift being given. I don't know if I have ever attended a performance which felt so genuinely like a gift for me. This may be why it has such a strong sense of magic about it... Kirchert's skill in interweaving all these ideas and elements into such a complex hour of fun and laughter is genius!

Forgotten Places is an immersive event for every age and here are some pro tips for you to get maximum enjoyment. First, wear shoes which are easy to slip on and off. Trust me, your feet will love you if you let them feel the textures on the floor! Secondly, don't forget to download a QR code reader app on your phone because you can look at how the art work was created and access the song lyrics in the space. The space is accessible and you can take your drinks upstairs with you. Win/Win!!!!

5 Stars

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