Being Dead (Don Quixote) – Theatre as simulation. (Theatre Review)

Being Dead (Don Quixote) 

MKA Productions with bAKEHOUSE Theatre Company

The Kings Cross Theatre from 6 – 10 March

You can grab your tickets here.

“To dissimulate is to pretend not to have what one has. To simulate is to feign to have what one doesn’t have. One implies a presence, one an absence.” [1] And yet, it is more complicated than even this. Simulating is not pretending. As Baudrillard goes on to say, to lay in bed and fake an illness simply involves convincing others of your story. To lay in bed and simulate an illness is to work hard to lie to oneself. Therefore pretending or dissimulating retains its connection to reality. In fact it upholds reality by reinforcing a difference it presumes to be clear. However, simulation threatens the difference between the “true” and the “false” the “real” and the “imaginary.” If truth produces symptoms, is it then real? Representation always begins from the principle that the sign and the real are equivalent. Conversely, simulation begins from the sanctity of the sign. While representation tries to absorb simulation by interpreting it as false, simulation can capture the entirety of representation itself. Therefore, according to Baudrillard, the image starts off as the reflection of a basic reality, and in so doing then masks and perverts a basic reality. Following this it masks the absence of a basic reality and then it bears no resemblance to the basic reality at all, rather becomes its own entity. “In the first case, the image is a good appearance – the representation is of the order of sacrament. In the second, it is an evil appearance – of the order of malefice. In the third, it plays at being an appearance – it is of the order of sorcery. In the fourth, it is no longer in the order of appearance at all, but of simulation.” [2]

When the real is no longer what it used to be, then nostalgia assumes its full meaning. The world becomes a proliferation of myths of origin, and signs of reality; of second hand truth, objectivity and authenticity. Inside of this, is the opportunity for a panic-stricken production of the real and the referential above and parallel to the panic of material production. Echoing these shadows lies Kerith Manderson-Gavin in their Barbie pink with their Kathy Acker cry surrounded on stage by their faux-handsome K-Mart purchases they refer to as ‘rare.’ In this place, Kerith Manderson-Gavin is a strategy of the real, neo-real and hyper real who has a universal double which is the obfuscating strategy of deterrence. On our stage, in their underwear, they are no longer the simulated territory of Kathy Acker and Cervantes. They are no longer a referential thing or substance. Kerith Manderson-Gavin is now the generation of models of the real without origin or reality: a hyper real. The territory no longer precedes the map nor survives it. In fact it is the map which precedes the territory. It is the map which engenders the territory and the territory that transforms itself in response to the map. These territories are our own, not the possession of some empire, and we are forced to preserve the map ahead of them.


However, when we watch Kerith Manderson-Gavin, something is missed from realities charm. As we see the inversion of simulation v’s real, we say goodbye to the Cervantes mirror of being or Acker’s inversion of appearances. The real is called forth by miniaturised units, fromm matricies and memories and systems of control, and from this it can be reproduced any number of times. (As inside of theatre there is no reproduction) Rationality is no longer a yardstick by which to measure against an ideal or even negative instance. The real becomes a hyper real, or a hyper space without atmosphere. Simulation engulfs and obliterates the real. In here lies the core of the brilliance of this performance. With the ephemera of Cervantes intact, the curvature of the real or truth are liquidated inside their referentials. The audience experience a profound sense of a ductile material beyond meaning.

Turning all this back on itself and relating it to history, it is within the simulations of “nature” that the modern signs take their value. As we see in Kerith Manderson-Gavin’s performance, nostalgia for “nature” has been with the bourgeoisie since the Renaissance, as a mirror of the classical sign. Despite the revolutions that come to break up this relationship we are left with the “natural” laws as most succinctly expressed, not in nature but only unto the law of exchange and the commercial law of value. In this way then, according to Baudrillard, “the entire classical era belongs par excellence to theatre.” Theatres transubstantiation of all nature into a unique substance that pierces through social life carrying with it the signs of bourgeois values. Theatre becomes the perfect vehicle to obliterate the real through simulation while equally using simulation to re-write the secret message of the real.

Don Quixote, Kathy Acker and Barbie make no attempt to resist these natural assertions, but rather present an alternate real through simulation. Kerith Manderson-Gavin asserts a simulation against the real and evokes these post-modern symbols to be distilled through the theatre. The result is akin to the figure writhing under the hoop of their dress, escaping yet only existing within the cage. Utilising great charisma, the performance stretches beyond the fourth wall and includes a kind of democracy (they equally refuse) to triumph over all artificial signs. This performance and the enormity of the intellect behind it pave the way for unheard-of combinations to all the games, to all the counterfeits. The prestigious theatricality is itself a representative substance. A mirror of all others.

Any MKA performance will tease your intellect and invite a stretch, but this one in particular is thrilling to those seeking an opportunity to extend into a thing. By no means is this easy theatre, but then we have television for our lazy nights, and a wee bit of hard thinking will not hurt us. There is nothing to fear here, Kerith Manderson-Gavin does not want to humiliate or employ you; but they will call to a deeper part of you that wants to be seen. Beautiful theatre!

[1][1] Jean Baudrillard Simulations

[2] Jean Baudrillard, Simulations and Simulacra