By Lynn Jackson
Being Dead (Don Quixote) is clearly not a show for everyone. The audience is welcomed into the Little Theatre, bedecked in fairy-floss pink satin drapes and is greeted quietly by Kerith Manderson-Galvin, dressed in flesh toned underwear. Manderson-Galvin (who is genderqueer and uses them/their) pronouns apologises for their nerves, their anxieties and their general presence. The atmosphere speaks of femineity, in perhaps its most toxic form – limited, submissive, apologetic. As Manderson-Galvin begins to interact gently with the audience, they probe and connect with gentle skill and the audience is perhaps not even aware that the performance has begun.
Manderson-Galvin continues with this atmosphere for several minutes, building rapport through their gentle anecdotes and wry self-effacing humour about everything from their tattoos to their love of the Kmart Mums Facebook Group. Some of the audience seemed bemused at this meandering chatter, but slowly Manderson-Galvin began to draw us into a subtle web of anecdote and observation that became hypnotic and engaging.
The show continued in its careful, seemingly unrehearsed form, slowly introducing the connection to Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes’s 17th century novel about a man’s impossible dream of return to a time of civility and chivalry. Manderson-Galvin’s anecdotes, asides and observation about the novel and their modern experience as a queer femme knit together as an epic of their own.
Some of Manderson-Galvin’s work is thought-and emotion-provoking. As they remember their experiences in strip clubs, for instance, they contort into physical tableaux, commenting “this is a beautiful image”. And they are. Sound design by Jules Pascoe and Lighting design by Jason Crick add even more aesthetic effect to these moments. A slow dance through a pink satin dress suggests a sensual re-birth or emergence. These moments are sublime, disconnected and perhaps deliberately obtuse. Some moments however landed poorly. Invited onto the stage to sit uncomfortably, we viewed what seemed a poorly constructed school media project, and the sing-along at the end seemed strange, disjointed and broke the atmosphere that the rest of the show had so carefully created.
Post structuralist theatre, stripped of its linear narrative is not for everyone. Manderson-Galvin recognises this and offers to turn their back at the opening of the show, to allow people to leave who are uncomfortable. However – if you are a fan of new theatre, or perhaps willing to challenge your expectations of the genre, you might find an unpolished gem here.
set: 4/5, Sound: 3/5, lighting: 3/5, performances: 4/5 ,direction: 3/5