Review by Kate Gaul
“Oatmilk and Honey” is created and performed by MO-KO Piano & Circus from South Australia. Co-founded by Filipino Australian musician Nathan Chettle and Australian acrobat Amanda Lee who both perform the piece. As the description suggests this is a blend of live original music, circus acrobatics, and more mellow moves to create a truly unique outcome. Described by some as avante-garde it reflects raw human experience of anxiety. There is no narrative. Nathan Chettle sits playing the keyboard while Amanda Lee moves around the space and him. They become intertwined, interrupting each other, intruding on each-other’s work – much like anxiety can engulf the mind and body. The company has garnered a number of awards for this piece in circus and fringe festival contexts.
“Oatmilk and Honey” is presented in the Demonstration Room” at Summerhall. The Demonstration Room is a stark and uniquely atmospheric space that gives audiences a powerful experience before the work even starts. Sharply tiered seating from which the original students may have observed dissections now invite eager audiences to get up-close with audacious artists (often incorporating aerial elements as the ceiling is very high and contains rigging points). The grimy white walls resonate with past usage and performances. As the two artists make their way to the stage through a squeaky door, one is immediately reminded of the courage it takes to walk into this very non illusionistic space and our fragility as humans.
The stage is simple set with a hexagonal light box as backdrop, a carpet on which sits two keyboards, a small table, an acrobat swing to one side. Jars of honey and a carton of oatmilk sit prominently atop the keyboard and small table. The carpet slides easily up and downstage and the performers take their time to move the mat (and everything on it) whenever they need more space. The performers operate their own tech from a mobile phone – which is essentially changes in light colour and intensity.
As the piece starts, we are told, through soothing voice over, that this is a safe space to laugh, cry, breathe, and heal. The voiceover returns at points during the show. We are treated to an imagistic poem about an alpaca. Part meditation, part finely crafted routine, “Oatmilk and Honey” elicits a powerful emotional response through the sheer audacious elegance of its conception and delivery. Amanda Lee makes a brief appearance as an alpaca. Throughout the performance she rarely takes her eyes from Nathan at the keyboard and it’s a lightening-rod of a connection.
Statistics collected by Beyond Blue show that approximately 1 in 7 Australians are currently experiencing an anxiety condition. This work is dedicated to anyone who has ever felt anxiety, loved someone with anxiety, or cared for someone with anxiety. Programed at 10am this is the ideal way to start your day at Edinburgh Fringe and a formidable reminder of why we come together to share in self-expression and participate in a powerful interconnection if only we can open our hearts and minds.