Melbourne Fringe: ‘AKAI ITO and the Forest’

Human relationships are elegantly laid out in ‘AKAI ITO and the Forest‘. Literally. This interactive art event is experiential theatre combining oral storytelling, soundscape, sculpture and dance. You walk yourself through the show.

Mapping the atmospheric space feels like you are on a shared pilgrimage with the rest of the audience. With no instructions, there is a hypnotic feel to the silent discovery and something primitive about our private actions in each other’s presence. The first space is a ‘forest’ of poles across which short personal stories are strung across a ‘testimonial-clothesline’. Tales of lovers’ first meetings, separations by geography or career ambitions, physical illness and death, and school days’ memories are written on handwritten notes created by past audience members. You are invited to add your own.

Sculptural orange rock-like objects hang from the ceiling, throbbing on and off like fire coals. Descending from these are headphones which hold four personal stories. Real subjects tell of family ties, love affairs, and sibling bonds. They prepare you for the second space encounter.

This is spectacular viewing. Watch two dancers wordlessly attach and detach themselves from each other’s costumes, with the room-size red rope rig that is a giant spider web hovering overhead. The subtle delicacy of this silent mapping of human bonds is mesmerising. The web resembles the network of veins in our bodies, and the dancers act like cells: joining, splitting and rebuilding, both connected and divergent. A soundscape referring back to the headphone stories loops key comments and builds tension.

Next, the audience is invited to hold a tie or thread, evoking the ancient rituals enacted in spaces like Stonehenge where groups make the drama. We felt the tension of our hold — involvement is part of being human. This makes for comforting viewing as you look across your fellow audience members.

Life is a work-in-progress and being human means being connected. Don’t say you missed your own pilgrimage through this special trip into deep connection — of the flesh and human relations. Get this knowledge viscerally, through your body and your actions, at ‘AKAI ITO and the Forest’.

– Sarah
Sarah W. is a dance-trained theatre lover with a flair for the bold, and non-traditional performance platforms. On-the-street or in the box seat, she is always looking for quality works that push the envelope.

‘AKAI ITO and the Forest’ runs 15-30 September, 8pm (45mins) at Meat Market, North Melbourne. Book tickets now. 
The venue is wheelchair accessible.

For more Melbourne Fringe 2016, check out our guide and all our reviews.

Disclosure: The Plus Ones were invited guests of Akai Ito.
Image credit: Melbourne Fringe.