On Saturday evening, I went to see the performance event ‘SHOW REAL DRAMA’ as part of the ‘Taking the Stage OVER’ project, initiated and organised by Shanghai curator Biljana Ciric over the past year…she very kindly got me a ticket, even after the show had sold out. It was presented at the Ke Center for Contemporary Art Theater that was absolutely impossible to find as Kaixuan Lu seems to be a complete Bermuda Triangle of a street…it took me lots of questions, slight lost in translation and five people to find it. I got there with use of my basic Mandarin…I was so proud. ‘SHOW REAL DRAMA’ connects and separates reality and fiction, investigating the actor’s personal lives whilst they are trying to deal with their own performances on stage. It was performed by actors Susie Meyer and Fabian Stumm, directed by Keren Cytter, with video work by Mia Meyer and Keren Cytter. ‘Susie and Fabian are actors that needed a showreel. Because they didn’t have any acting jobs they decided to write a script for scenes they would like to act one day. They made two scenes. In the play these two showreel scenes function as the brakes between the acts SHOW, act REAL, and act DRAMA. While they are in the back of the stage, their text is referring to their relationships and memories. When they are standing in the front of the stage, their text is referring to the stage and their acting career. When they are reaching the center of the stage they are reenacting their showreel or dialogs from the past.’
There was a lot of what I’d call formulaic word play in the narrative…sentences, phrases, words repeated over and over to further exemplify the scenes and emotions Susie and Fabian were attempting to act…the realities and drama of “real life”. As scenes were set, the actors serious narrative tones were interjected with humour and laughter, irony and self-reflection…narratives were put into question, realities were put into question…never with any clear-cut resolution. ‘Raw emotions collided with pure embarrassment’ where experiencing emotion in relationships was seen “as living”…which if you think about it makes sense. At one stage, I held my breath at the harsh reality of an emotional argument between lovers, a careless slap around the face from Fabian to Susie followed an inappropriate sexually charged wrestle to the floor where Susie suddenly bled vulnerability from her usually over-confident, forthright narrative and demeanour. A short film played out an aggressive, forceful sex scene, seemingly unpleasurable for Susie and Fabian, yet at the same time almost seen as the expected routine…a “normal” interaction in that relationship. The acts were often focused around Susie and her “affected” psychology, confidence and security.
One clever part to the performance was Susie and Fabian’s use of audience members to pinpoint and mark out literal, physical parameters of the imagined spaces (I think I’ve just contradicted myself) such as walls, objects and details from the rooms in which the “acts” took place…in one scene you referenced as being where the purple wallpaper was…in another a doorway leading to a corridor. I was completely taken by the repetitious rhythm of the narrative and of the performance, which built a sense of tension and emotionality between the two actors and engagement with the audience…almost like a drum beat, a beat to a diary or chronology as the actors paced the floor in a repeated square formation. Furthermore, the Chinese textual interludes, projected on the left and right hand screen panels, set in parallel with the excerpts of short films shown on the central screen panel, provided further context through which to understand the series of “acts”. I think this was the first time it was shown in China, which also added another layer of cultural context as I’m sure Chinese audiences would interpret this work in a different way largely due to how relationships often function by a different traditionalism here…this is not always the case though. It was a little shorter than expected in terms of performance time (around 40 minutes) where I felt like I’d voyeuristically watched a relationship come together, fall apart and be deconstructed in order to achieve closure and move on. Conscious visual and verbal emotionality through repetitious narrative, performance and interaction – SHOW REAL DRAMA. “This was living”.