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Young Creatives Blog

I Know You're Wearing the Duck's Shoes: The Impact of Audience Boundaries

Monday 14 March 2016

  • Review

The last week of PIAF – the last shows, the last breath of life in the Perth theatre scene before it has a little nap.

I found I Know You're There quite interesting as it correlates with what I'm currently exploring in my own practice in relation to audience comfort and emotional engagement. By situating the audience around a large round table, which the performer also sits at, it blurs the boundaries between audience and performer. The audience’s role is disrupted – the performer asks them to engage and offers them tea – they are invited to go beyond being a passive spectator. James Berlyn seeks to look after the audience, make them feel as comfortable as possible as he gently breaks down the conventions of theatre. It was handled well, but it still existed in this weird void where the audience felt unsure about how to behave, like someone placed on a cricket pitch who isn’t a player doesn’t automatically understand the finer rules of cricket just because they're there. The audience is being interpolated into a new role, which is similar, but not the same as before – it's always interesting to see the reaction.

The Wild Duck features a tame duck, and a re-imagined Ibsen text, with the top layer of polite formality and dining room manners ripped off. It loses the subtlety of Ibsen’s original instead focusing on the essence of the scenes, cutting between them in a filmic style. Two theatrical aspects of the production which protrude prominently in my mind are the duck and the box. There's this thing with acting where you try really hard to not be acting and to be truthful. The duck's got that down pat. And the use of the box simultaneously secludes the action within the fourth wall of living room drama, and destroys the idea of living room with an ever changing space. It's an aquarium of life, trapped for the audience to observe. The audience is literally segregated, removed from the action. But the work is powerful, so it's easy to engage.

A Mile in My Shoes also created an active audience, the work inviting you to walk around in someone else's shoes while listening to their story, (though I didn't manage to walk very far in the towering sequinned wedges of Miss Africa Perth). A Mile in My Shoes is a deceptively simple, yet powerful work, which the participant can shape according to how they feel. One story or multiple? Keep it light, or listen to something a bit heavy? And there's something so awkward and great about walking around in someone else's shoes – designed for feet, yet not perfect for your feet. Listening to another's story – relatable, but distinctly their own. I found it really moving – it was a lovely way to end the Festival.

It has been excellent to experience PIAF in greater depth than I have before. It has given me a better understanding of the ecology of Perth's art industry, how the system works. This knowledge will support me as I make my own way as an artist, as the art I have absorbed has inspired me.

Young Creative: Theatre

Written By Rhiannon Peterson