Perch – truth in form and movement. (Theatre Review)
From 9-21 February, Belvoir Street Theatre
Photos by Phyllis Photography
The strength of the theatrical experience shines through when one forgoes analysis of representation (content, plot, characters and narrative) and conducts a reflexive exploration via the level and mode of presentation; that truth is always on the side of form, and not on the side of content. This idea comes to the fore when you consider the fundamental formal structure of theatre as characterised by reflexive repetition and the relational parallax. What you “say” can be revealed to be a collection of experiences constantly informed by a personal history. Consciousness arises from an intermingling of recorded past experiences with incoming present activity; as such the process is dynamic. In The Leaps new work production Perch, consciousness is taken one step further into a transitional awareness, using sleep as the method by which the present reveals itself as informed by the mentally recorded history of a past. Consciousness appears in the form of an owl (wisdom), called upon deliberately (through a financial exchange) to accompany the sleeping protagonist into the fearful realms of their own subconscious. The startling history that reveals itself is never the focus of the narrative, rather it is the form and function of Perch himself, that takes on a surreal narrative flow that asserts itself against analysis of representation.
Susan sleeps in her bed. She is watched over by Perch, who has arrived dressed as an owl. As Susan sleeps, Perch, who feels compelled to fulfil a function even though his true purpose was to help Susan fall to sleep, immerses himself in a rambling exploration of what it means to be him, to be her, and to exist in their connection to each other. An implied relationship emerges from the expository history that Perch reveals to his audience whose presence he keenly feels. He speaks of events that may or may not be true but work to inform his present. Perch has a negative association with ontology and a reconnecting with subjectivity. Rather than be, he thinks about who he is being. Perch’s examination of the sleeping Susan, his connection with her and his reflections on himself and his history are processes that lead him to a moment, rather than shed light or meaning on a lived life. It can be stated that Perch wants to be able to move within his space at this precise moment, and he takes a small journey toward an ability to move.
Here in lies the beauty of the creative connection between Sarah Carradine and Brian Carbee. While Sarah Carradine is a writer directing movement, Brian Carbee is a writer seeking movement. Carbee moves between Perch and Susan, between victim and victimized, always conscious of a now, informed by a past and movement informed by immobility. Perch is gay, and Susan has welcomed him back to help resolve her insomnia, and yet when he arrives, she sleeps. The pair seem to continually miss each other all through history and yet, they are one and the same in the most important ways. With both Carradine and Carbee writing and Carradine directing Carbee’s most exquisite movements, you have the perfect amalgam of action and stillness manifest in a person who embodies a relationship.
Perch is dark as well as funny. It is still and filled with movement. It is cerebral and visceral and emotional. It includes its own lies and allows us to see its vulnerable truths. It refuses the traditional tropes of theatre, while working in association with form rather than content. Content is subsumed for the potential form has to relay an immediacy of experience. At every moment, the audience feel invited and compelled to find themselves in the strange night-time flux of a now informed by the past, while Perch relates his own experiences and then those of Susan. Two characters, one actor.
At the time of writing this review there are only a couple of opportunities to see Perch left. Grab your tickets here.