an armoury of theatrical skills
Being Dead (Don Quixote) | Review
Kevin Jackson’s Theatre Diary
8 March, 2018
Unofficial Kerith Fan Club in association with MKA I Theatre of New Writing and KXT bAKEHOUSE present BEING DEAD (DON QUIXOTE), creation by Kerith Manderson-Galvin, at the Kings Cross Theatre (KXT), Kings Cross Hotel. 6th – 10th March.
BEING DEAD (DON QUIXOTE) is a work created and performed by Kerith Manderson-Galvin. It has been seen at Blue Room (Perth) and the Spiegeltent (Melbourne). It is an evolving work and is “a dangerous quest of literary theft, build-your-own identity and post-anarchy that steals from Cervantes, Barbie and instant p*rn.”
On the traverse stage of the KXT, against a pink gauze curtain we attend to a waiting figure in old-fashioned (large) but seemingly comfortable underwear – bra and panties – and a sheer one-piece stocking over the legs, accompanied with a theatrically embroidered mirrored sequinned head cap and an ostentatiously attached mouth microphone to the head/face (it occasionally sputters and ‘burps’ to derail the artist.)
Once we are seated we meet the ‘persona’ of a disingenuously shy and more than slightly incompetent artist – pretty-in-pink most of the night – who proceeds in a stream-of-consciousness conversation to take us on a 60 minute befuddled journey that attempts to bring Don Quixote, Sancho and, briefly, Dulcinea into the ‘light’ using a variety of theatrical gestures that includes, self-deprecating chat (with a lot of apology), dance, music (well chosen), song (including a sing-along: the chorus going: ‘Give me a home among the gumtrees’), video (on a laptop) and pink costume ‘puppetry’.
Kerith Manderson-Galvin is a beguiling energy, and despite the supposed incompetence and disorganisation of they/them ‘persona’, displays an armoury of theatrical skills of some sophistication. This sophistication of skills, frankly, in my experience of BEING DEAD (DON QUIXOTE), are employed in presenting a work that became more and more opaque as it proceeded to, ultimately, an underwhelming experience, whatever it was pursuing, both, in a literary sense and as a theatrical event.
This work has been brought to us by the above three companies and is the other part of KXT’s contribution to the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras events. ARE WE AWAKE? by Charles O’Grady was its recently seen partner.
Mardi Gras weekend, the 3rd-4th of March, has just passed and the celebrations are over and all are in ‘recovery’ mode. Many a celebrant ‘high’ on the 40th Anniversary (I suppose) are now in the transition to normality. That we were seeing this show on the 7th of March, well post-Mardi Gras, seemed to underline for me that this creation and performance had similarities of some conversations I had observed of people around Sydney proper, yesterday and today, in what is euphemistically called an ‘ecky Tuesday/Wednesday’ interaction. This ‘pin-ball’ bounce of ordinariness from concern to concern in (deliberate) conversational chat from our ‘persona’ on stage felt much like that familiarity, and unless one is in a similar ‘state’ of transition to normality, it can become quite a wearisome challenge to be attentive to.
There is intention with this creation, I think, to confront/traduce the ‘norm’ of theatrical gesture in its form and expressive tropes, and there is an appropriation of a famous literary text, Cervantes’ DON QUIXOTE, but it seemed to me, no matter the skills and sleight-of hand employed by this artist, BEING DEAD (DON QUIXOTE), is an experience that failed to impact at a sufficient level of engagement, despite, at first, some initial charm. The 60 minutes or so, during this wind-up unwinding, began to feel quite interminable.
I was reminded (kinda) of the Nature Theatre of Oklahoma, experiences at past Art Festivals: Sydney (NO DICE) and Melbourne (LIFE AND TIME. EPISODES 1-4) and the costume sculptures of Justin Shoulder (CARRION AND THE RIVER EATS), and this work is a modest achievement in comparison, though comparisons, some say, can be odious (odiferous?).
The pink costume sculpture-puppetry ‘dance’ of some ten or so minutes, for instance, in the latter half of the work, was a modest offer and was present, I concluded, because the artist could do it, Its context in the structure of the work was simply baffling dramaturgically, and so I came to an ungenerous conclusion that it was a gratuitous flaunt of one of the artist’s particular skills repertoire.
BEING DEAD (DON QUIXOTE) is for a ‘family’ friend cognoscenti, I think. No harm done and I am glad to have been charmed by Kerith Manderson-Galvin. With better dramaturgical clarity one might be encouraged to meet they/them again.
N.B. In the program: “Note for the reviewers: Kerith Manderson-Galvin uses the pronouns (they/them/theirs)”