REVIEW: The Space Between (Auckland Fringe)

Review by Matt Baker

[Getting Closer]

What is connection? It’s one of the many questions stuck to the black curtains of the central playing space of the Town Hall Supper Room, and a provocation in the devising process of The Space Between, a multi-space, multi-disciplinary theatrical installation presented by Cherie Moore and Sheena Irving in the 2019 Auckland Fringe Festival. Connection is one of the central components to performance art, both between the artist(s) and the audience, and the artist(s) themselves. By adjusting these relationships, The Space Between explores this theme, and others, with an intimacy that is both confronting and confusing. Sometimes, the seeming simplicity of a question belies the complexity of its answer.

While Brecht’s alienation is in full effect, the use of meta-theatrical devices in modern devised works can be an indication of theatre-makers excusing themselves from the burden of providing semiotic sense. It becomes a commentary rather than a proposition, and while justified in the correct mode, as it is in The Space Between, it feels like a shirking of theatrical responsibility when compared with the more delivered elements of the piece. This lack of contrast between the show and the show-within-the-show is primarily the result of an absence in direction and dramaturgy; without clearly defined moments of transition, the audience are at times lost in the time and space between active participant and passive spectator.

Participation extends to audience members aiding Moore and Irving in working out exactly what the show is. Is it a theatre piece? A film? A podcast? Each medium provides the audience with an opportunity to engage with the piece in a different way, whether as viewer and critic, crew member, or foley artist. Whether it be an earpiece, LEGO piece, or a tambourine, the audience is set off (and rearranged) on a journey of sight, touch, and sound through which to interact with the show.

Just as any literal object in a performance space is symbolic of itself, Moore and Irving are not Moore and Irving, but exaggerated versions of themselves. And while the level could simply be a result of performing the show multiple times in succession, the performative style can afford to be as equally heightened, if not more so, because when the light is shone and settles into place, the show delivers. Especially when via a lyricism that is both beautiful and devastating. Anyone who has ever made a genuine connection with another human being, who has loved, obsessed, even lost, will know the words spoken all too well.

While the abrupt ending is rather fragmented, a retreat from presenting any conclusive findings, it is not unlike the way in which we experience disconnection in everyday life. The cyclical structure and idea of miscommunication between two people hints towards an absurdist quality in the work that, if explored further, could have allowed a sense of completeness to the show while maintaining this statement. The Space Between is an exploration, which means it has a unique ability to develop as a work, as both the artists, the audience, and the spaces around it grow too.

The Space Between played at the Auckland Town Hall – Supper Room from 19 to 24 February 2019.

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