defies convention

— REVIEW of ‘Being Dead (Don Quixote)’ | The West Australian

Being Dead (Don Quixote) | Review

2.5 stars

With MKA, you always know what you’re going to get – which is, you’ll never know what you’re going to get. Melbourne’s Theatre of New Writing has made enfant terrible almost establishment, precisely, and, I suspect, deliberately, by being astounding and infuriating in equal measures.

MKA made its WA debut at the 2014 Fringe with Dogmeat, a savage, obscene poetic snarl by the company’s co-founder, Tobias Manderson-Galvin. I was swept away by it, by its care and discipline as much as its extremism, and I’ve spent the last two years defending it – and my opinion – from people, many of them artists themselves, who hated it with a deep passion.

And so it is with Being Dead (Don Quixote), a piece of self-exploration and expression by Manderson-Galvin’s sister Kerith that defies convention and, by most measures, theatrical sense, but makes its mark in ways you might not expect and can’t anticipate.

An example: Manderson-Galvin saunters over to her accompanist, the tasty guitarist Jules Pascoe and sings a tidy blues called In My Room. But the lyrics projected behind them, unless I’m very much mistaken, are those of another song, also called In My Room, Brian Wilson’s heartbreaking hymn to loneliness from the mid-60s. Make of that what you will.

Or of her lip-synching Patti Smith’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Nigger through the mouth of a cardboard cutout cop. Or leading the audience (including a very talented kookaburra impersonator) in a sing-a-long Give Me a Home Among the Gum Trees.

In fact everything about Being Dead harbours an elusive reality. The Quixote of the title is, in part, that of Cervantes, but much more of Kathy Acker’s 1986 novel of the same name, whose post-modern female knight may reference the old Don but is unrecognisable as him.

There’s an undeniably literate impulse in her approach, deflected by the (relative) obscurity of her source and her own approach to performance.

Which is very singular. Nervous, self-effacing and untutored (except when she’s moving or posing – Manderson-Garvin has a dancer’s body and is often beautiful to watch). She makes you question what business she has on a stage – certainly many people I talked to afterwards were asking that question, some very vehemently.

So. It’s just an hour of your time and the price of a couple of drinks. Go on – let’s see which way this makes YOU jump.

“defies convention… very singular”