Friday 27 November 2020

My Heart Is Aching And No One Can Save Me - Physical Theatre Review

What: My Heart Is Aching And No One Can Save Me
When: 25 - 28 September, 2020
Where: Digital Fringe
Created and performed by: Sara Caputo
Composition by: Josh Mitchell

Sara Casus

There is something which can be achieved with Digital Fringe which is almost impossible in a standard theatre and this is something which - if you take the artist's suggestion - is perfectly exemplified in Sara Caputo's new solo piece, My Heart Is Aching And No One Can Save Me. You can imagine what I am about to describe or you could just experience for yourself by registering for the show.

There you are, lazing indulgently in a warm bath, glass of wine in hand, the only light a candle or two flickering in the steam.. Bubbles are optional. On your laptop or tablet, skillfully balanced, you watch a woman almost asleep, naked in a steaming bath as well. You want your audience to empathise? You want them to get into the world of the character? It is impossible to create a stronger connection than something like this in my opinion.

A very soft soundtrack (Mitchell) creates a dreamy, surreal atmosphere. We supply the surround sound as our bath water swishes to her slow and lazy movements. She immerses her head dreamily then rushes to the surface gasping for air, a look of shock on her face. It is only a small disruption before she returns to the cosy, safe embrace of the water. It is enough, though, to tell us something isn't right.

In a sudden transition we find ourselves in a different bathroom. This one cold, stark, black and white, brick walls, concrete flaws, exposed cables. Suddenly things aren't cosy, things aren't safe. Caputo is still in the bath but that amniotic fluid is not longer there to protect her/us. There is no warm steam to open the lungs. The world is cold and harsh.

This woman is not alone, but there is no one except herself and reflections of herself projected onto the wall behind her in a 3 tier cascade. What ensues is a struggle to find herself. If she cannot look at herself, how can anyone see her?

Caputo has a strong background in physical theatre. In full disclosure I worked with her on a physical theatre piece back in Fringe 2012 called Self Contained Spaces. In that work I had her trapped in a light box, tied up with bungy chords, caught like an insect in a trap. Working with her, I discovered Caputo to be one of the bravest and most committed artists I have worked with. Risk is her alter ego and she was never reluctant to go to the dark places I sent her, working as hard on her own as she did in her time with me in rehearsal.

Caputo took a bit of a sabbatical over the last few years but has decided to come back to performance despite (or perhaps because of) the crazy 2020 we have all experienced. My Heart Is Aching is the perfect launch for her talents.

My Heart Is Aching And No One Can Save Me is the story of a woman struggling to emerge from a self-made cocoon, an intriguing reference to Melbourne's emergence from lockdown perhaps? In the blurb Caputo refers to escaping addiction. I got the feeling the addiction sitting behind this piece was a man and it reminded me of Alyssa Trombino's monologue 'Love Or Euphoria' in Freshly Minted

Regardless, as Caputo writhes and struggles within the confines of her bath tub it is clear the struggle of withdrawal, the lure of relapse, and the pain of facing reality, facing herself are tearing her apart. Perhaps the bath is the only thing holding her together...

The physicality of the work is a very modern, non-literal approach. There is definitely a Butoh base and I also detected Laban in some of the etudes. 

My Heart Is Aching And No One Can Save Me does have text, but it is sparse. It is emotional, and expressive, and explosive. Occasionally the words are lost through the movements and/or the natural reverberation of the space but I am not sure it all needs to be heard. It needs to be felt and to be understood but that does not always involve hearing each syllable of speech. Listen closely to the closing refrain though. You will also hear nuggets of insight throughout such as "No lies left to tell now that your gone", "Everyone around me gone", and the all important "I don't want to change!"

Mitchell's soundtrack isn't across the whole work, but travels the emotional journey perfectly. My one complaint is that the first piece of music is too soft. Many of us in the chat room thought the sound was missing until someone suggested we turn our sound up to full. Even then it was only a whisper. It is fine once the show moves into the white room though.

A solo work, Caputo does not move/dance alone. The three iterations of herself in the bath dance a wracking pas de trois and I can't express how impressive the choreography and execution are for her to have danced all three parts in such perfect timing. At one point there are even 5 of her intertwined as 2 shadows cleverly integrate into the ensemble. It is this which really sets My Heart Is Aching And No One Can Save Me above more standard fare.

Caputo has chosen to film the show for Digital Fringe to avoid technology problems (smart woman), but My Heart Is Aching can/will translate beautifully into a live show if she wants to travel down that path. Sadly, the audiences probably won't be able to bring their own baths...

4 Stars

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