Something to be Done – Gabatwa Productions and the art of the body. (Theatre review)

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Something To be Done

Gabatwa Studios – buy tickets here.

Tap gallery From 13 May to 1 June

A striking image heralds the start of Gabriel McCarthy’s one man show, Something to be done. McCarthy himself inside a tulle bag, his grip  evoking a closed off womb space. He wakes, and finding himself stranded inside the sack and starts to struggle to release himself from it. This birthing process is easily one of the most beautiful in the play and clearly indicates a new being is arriving into the world. As soon as our unnamed protagonist “arrives”, after discovering his body, he finds that movement and object are accompanied by the sound of music. He hears music when he opens draws, when he slaps his body and when he falls to the floor. Music is immediately a part of his world, and it creates and defines a path for our naive protagonist that he knows he must follow.

It’s a nice metaphor for the early days of the artist. McCarthy, who wrote the play himself (initially as an HSC exam final, then as a Short and Sweet entrant – both of which garnered him awards) stated it is a metaphor for his own arrival into the creative world of theatre. For McCarthy we are born to a predisposition, and we have to fumble and find our way along a path that makes itself be known. This is not predestination necessarily, as the path can be abandoned at any point, but Something to be Done (as the title implies) insists desire is close to making, and as the flame burning inside the artist first drives them, it is also the seed of a recognition of sorts, of the thing that is always around them. McCarthy brings this point out in several ways, through the Nietzsche quote he uses on the program and Godot lone tree that stands as witness and sentinel in the fruitless Beckettian striving we all commit to in our effort to be fully human.

“… And those who were seen dancing ere thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” Nietzsche

Interestingly, in the journey to accomplishment, McCarthy includes the problems of poverty (surely artists best friend is poverty – if you are unwilling to embrace poverty you are unwilling to be an artist) and self medication – another pit stop on the road to accomplished making that almost every artist is familiar with. Making is an encounter with the frustrations of the world and the limits of ourselves, and therefore it includes far more darkness and confusion than it does joy and celebration, but those things, when they come, throb with a deep pleasure and joy that exceeds almost all other pleasures. This is referenced constantly throughout Something to be Done, as the artists is almost inseparable from the work he has produced. Eventually, when he is face to face with his work at the end, his accomplishment is a pronouncement made from on high to the tune of Lux Aeterna by Cliff Mansell (perhaps a little overdone, I think the subtle moments work better for McCarthy) is something of a tragedy, as if a piece of him has been abandoned to the final accomplishment in the making. Within the thinking of Something to be Done, this is both true and untrue as every great accomplishment strips us of something, but includes something else – it’s a question of value and degrees, but all along it is a process and if we thought we suffered through an astonishing birth at the start, it is nothing to the one life will perpetually thrust upon us in the journey to a completed work of art.

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Something to be Done appears to be a solo work at its surface, but there is a secondary character, and that is sound. With the support of Erin Harvey, Christie Kay Bennett and Jessica Lowe and with the evocative lighting of Taylor Allen, the sound and lights work as additional characters so that we always get the impression we are sitting in a room that expands beyond its four walls, and are aware of the presence of additional characters who never “appear”. The set is beautiful and interesting, with paper and tape plastered over the top of paper and tape, allowing for giant cracks that give the impression anything can happen in a space where so much already has.

Something to be Done is a different kind of show, part Charlie Chaplin, Marcel Marceau, Rowen Atkinson and Samuel Beckett, but together this all makes for an interesting night at the theatre.

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