A bunch of weeks have flown by since February 1 and they are a flurry of memorable moments that are more than likely couched in mundanity. This is how life goes on though, right? Sizzling along with a brief flash in the pan here and there.
Then, every once in a while, the sublime creeps upon you, quietly. This photo is of that moment, that moment of sublime that lifted me out of the day-to-day slide
When I last wrote in this space, I was playing around with an idea that I’d pitched to Performance Space about making a short work literally inside a coffin. The idea was accepted for their Nighttime: Live and Let Die program and Lana Costa, Tom Cocquerel and I were suddenly facing a fortnight deadline to make what we’d envisaged.
This experience was utterly new to me. I’d never worked to such a tight deadline. I’d never worked, I realise now, in such a truly collaborative way. And I’d never reached the day of the performance so uncertain about whether the work would be a disaster or not. A couple of nights before the show, I experienced a very real revelation which, as is always the case with self-evident truths, I had thought I had understood but had not actually grasped until I was living it. Sleepless, wondering whether we could pull this extremely risky idea off, I got slapped in the face with this: it would either work or it wouldn’t. It was as simple as that. And with this I realised the importance of releasing myself from the desire to ‘get a hold of’ what I was making; essentially, I realised I had give up my desire for control.
Lana pitched the idea of a WWI soldier, which gave us a very strong access point for the idea of being buried with your decisions (as all soldiers given a military funeral were buried in their uniforms). Together, the three of us created a character, William Crawford: grew up in Brisbane, joined the Light Horse to see the world, trained in Egypt, fell in love with a prostitute in Cairo called Anta, injured in Gallipoli, died of infection on the boat back to Egypt, buried outside the training camp, Mena.
Seven days after he has died, he wakes up in his coffin. There is a bottle of Anta’s perfume in his breast pocket. Which means, what? That she travelled from Cairo when she heard that he was dying? That she loved him?
By the time of the performance, our conceit had evolved to this: you are buried with the smells of the most important moments in your life. It was meant to be a question, for the audience, of what they want these smells (choices) to be.
It was risky because Tom, as Will, was set to engage with the first person that he saw and start a conversation with them through which, ideally, his story could come out as an explanation to that person about the importance of making your own choices. During this conversation, it was hoped that some of the rest of the audience, who were meant to be milling around, would come up and watch this exchange.
Everything was literally out of our control. We got the coffin on the day of the show to practice in. We got that stunning lighting state an hour before it opened. At the last minute, the curator decided that the whole audience should watch our piece first rather than mill around.
So what we expected to maybe be a crowd of 20 witnessing this ended up being around 85 people sitting and standing around Tom, watching him have this conversation with a girl sitting by the foot of the coffin.
This picture that you see to the right, this show, is the closest that I’ve ever come to making onstage what I can see in my head. And there was basically nothing that I did that brought that about.
The arbitrariness of the universe, right?