Speak percussion have arrived at Arts House in North Melbourne to perform ‘a sonic odyssey of an assembly line’. The performance consists of three parts over 45 minutes and the three performers, Eugene Ughetti, Kaylie Melville and Matthias Schack-Arnott make their way down the assembly line for each part. The set consists of 9 benches, set up like a tic-tac-toe grid, on the back row of the grid were three launchpads (that’s what they looked like from where I was sitting) and the second row had the three tables filled with ceramics, gongs, drums and horns. Upon entering the space, the three performers are seated at each of the three tables in the front row of the grid, surrounded by tissue paper and their table was covered with a plastic conveyer belt.
As the audience are seated, the theatre is filled with a strange garbled voice over the PA. I couldn’t tell what it was, at one stage I thought it was a kookaburra then I changed my mind to thinking it was an airport announcement that was incomprehensible. I guess I will never know but that’s ok. The lights dim to the three sitting at the table and they start to create the soundscape using only their ‘conveyer belts’ and the tissue paper surrounding them. There is a lot of dragging, tearing, scrunching and tapping to create the soundscape. Listening to the scrunched paper unravelling sounded as though a fire was crackling if you closed your eyes. Immediately it was interesting and you could see three completely in sync performers. That being said, part one went for about five minutes to long and myself and people around me started to drift.
The performers then moved onto the second row of tables where they scratched and rubbed ceramic bowls, tore sticky tape and used violin bows on boxes to create the music. Like with the first part, it felt like this also went slightly too long. I kept waiting for a huge crescendo that never really happened. My theatre buddy after the show said “I kept waiting for ‘it’ although I’m not sure what ‘it’ is, but I know it didn’t happen” and while I also didn’t know what ‘it’ was, I understood what she meant and felt much the same way. Part two did get more interesting when the performers started building structures out of their ceramics and instruments while continuing to keep the soundscape going adding the sound of chains to the mix.
This was at the final row and gave the ‘sonic’ sound that is eluded to in the promotion of the show. This was by far the most interesting and exciting for me. For me, this particular part had a sense of purpose and sounded more like a musical piece rather than just a whole heap of sounds put together. It was a much shorter piece than the other two, which was disappointing, but then, maybe that’s why I liked it more than the other two.
The lighting was brilliant for the show; the tables were lit beautifully and the structures in the second part really shone. I can’t find who did the lighting but they need a huge round of applause. Likewise, the choreography was fantastic, as mentioned before the performers were completely in sync with one another and it was a joy to watch. The set was great for its purpose but I’m not sure the projections added anything to the production.
Overall, it dragged a little in parts and my attention waivered a number of times. While it was interesting and some of the things done were unbelievable, Assembly Operation just lacked a certain something that is hard to place. That being said, the work put into it is something that needs to be seen and I believe no matter who sees it, they will get something out of it.