By Anja Bless
The climate crisis is complex, there are many moving parts some complementing and some clashing, with many of us simply along for the ride. The forces of change, or lack thereof, continue to feel outside our own control.
What Am I Supposed To Do? (WAISTD), currently showing at Arts Centre Melbourne for Melbourne Fringe Festival, captures this complexity perfectly. Audience participation is a key feature of this work, you are definitely going to have a fun night as you join the performers throughout the space. The cast deftly work to provide props, costumes and instructions as the audience works as one to bring the performance to life.
Developed as part of the Take Over! Commission and created by Sarah Aiken and Rebecca Jensen/Deep Soulful Sweats, the piece is as much theatre as it is performance art. While engrossed in your own individual piece of the performance, as an audience member it is hard to keep track of all that is happening on the stage, or the meanings behind it, but perhaps that is the point.
The piece is agile, using powerful lighting and sound design to guide both the cast and the participating audience through its parts towards the end, the melting of the glaciers. Only in the second half are the audience permitted to take their seats. But their role is not over, scripts are handed out and audience members take on the role of narrator as the cast begin a movement piece on stage. The powerful cast, sweating from their work directing the audience, move into a beautifully choreographed dance and movement piece, following the scripts of the audience. The effect of the audience’s dialogue echoing around the theatre is mesmerising, framing the dance with eerily familiar sentiments on climate change from decades ago. Showing the futility of our struggle to combat the climate crisis just like the performers who struggle against one another on the stage.
WAISTD is extremely well curated, demonstrating immense creativity and deep despair at the lack of climate action. As an audience member, you at once do not know what to expect, whilst also seeing what we expect to see about the climate crisis unfold around us.
However, WAISTD does not provide any answer or direction for the question framed in its title. As I left, I felt only more uncertain, more afraid of what may unfold in our future. In the context of the Climate Strikes which occurred the following day and had an overwhelming sense of determination and positivity, I’m unsure what to make of how WAISTD left its audience. But again, perhaps that is the nuance of the piece, the insight of its creators. In tackling the climate crisis we are overwhelmed by hope, chaos, despair, confusion, comradery. Much of this was captured in a very short time by the performance of WAISTD, and like the climate crisis, this performance begs to be revisited again and again to uncover the meanings buried within it.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.