Benignly provocative and utterly eccentric sibling performance-makers Tobias and Kerith Manderson-Galvin trespass our comfort zones and smuggle their wit across the audience’s personal borders in their new show The Eternity of the World. Performed as part of the Provocare Festival of the Arts — an exciting and challenging new addition to Chapel Street’s cultural landscape — this partially existential, partially surreal and entirely unaccountable performance took place at the tasteful, and unassuming grounds of Anna Pappas gallery, all the way down the South side of the river.
The work is the latest production of Theatre MKA, founded by the playwright, poet and performance maker Tobias, now joined by performer and writer Kerith. With the company having broken up with the State Government (aka the ubiquitous funding cuts in arts), this work is a clear example of the company plunging into the freedom that comes when the ties of bureaucracy are severed: edgy, formally adventurous projects, aimed at stirring their audience up.
Despite concentrating all of my 100 billion brain cells on the show before me, I still have absolutely no idea what happened… Except that it felt good — very good — as we, the audience, in this state of anoesis, were respectively invited, provoked or led like lambs to slaughter to several unforgettable directions all within this disconcerting work’s hour-long duration.
In the duo’s own words, The Eternity of the World is a black Mass, a misremembering and a disappearance act. True to their claim the work boasted transcendental theatrics, hysterical discourse, and increasingly fractured and esoteric narratives and styles. At various times the performers broke the boundaries of the traverse staging to reflect on their own artist choices. The costumes — if indeed they were costumes — ranged from the hip and casual to the obscenely parodic. The design — costumes, props, even the only two chairs in the audience they chose to sit in — in a visual coup de théâtre, were all the same black, white, and gold of the gallery itself.
The piece had the capricious inconsistency of a theme park: a constant skipping from the familiar to the strange, then back again; and in a very Brechtian end came to a silly, slightly erudite, and altogether uncanny close — a prolonged drag of a 1920s musical hall song. It could have been Die Antwoord, Monty Python, or a David Lynch film.
I was particularly taken by Kerith Manderson-Galvin’s endearing and whimsical guide-cum-trickster, most notably when early in the piece I was guided gently from my seat only to then be left alone in the centre of the stage. Like much of the work I’ll never know whether this was or wasn’t planned, or if they knew I was the reviewer!
As the more antagonistic actor, Tobias Manderson-Galvin presented as a chaotic, post-punk Guy Debord. This was particularly acute in moments like the relentless rendition of What’s the Time Mr Wolf. This somehow terrifying rendition of the childhood game that ended with him berating the audience for standing by while others were eaten.
As we left the theatre, surrounded by props and debris from the preceding anarchy, the siblings continued their motif of a parody of funeral rites by telling us ‘Please do not take anything with you. No props, no possessions, and no memories’. Despite their request, The Eternity of the World will not be easily forgotten.
And for more on Provocare Festival of the Arts, visit www.www.provocare.com.au.