Let me get this out of the way: I hated Another Other. I hated it so much that I came out literally shaking, furious at the creators for making me sit through it. Never before have I had such an extreme reaction to a piece of art and, from a piece that explores identity and encourages self-reflection, it is possibly the most interesting reaction I could have had.
Another Other is part experimental opera, part sound installation and part cinema. The performers – Erkki Veltheim, Sabina Maselli, Natasha Anderson, Anthony Pateras – sit in the centre of the space, flanked by audience members on either side. Two clocks count the time passed and the time to come. Separating performers and audience members are two huge semi-transparent screens. On the wall on the far end of Meat Market – a cavernous hall – are two more screens, and we are surrounded by speakers and lights.
This show is an Experience. It takes no prisoners, and there is nowhere to hide. If, like me, you find yourself having a terrible, bored time after the first ten minutes, there is nothing for you to do but endure it. Another Other takes some text from Bergman’s film, but it is mostly visual and auditory, with layers upon layers of images and sound, meaning that the whole thing becomes an overwhelming, messy, surreal explosion designed to repel and intrigue you all at once.
Another Other brings up feelings, and there were many people in the audience in awe, in tears or otherwise feeling deeply connected to the piece. Due to the lack of language and prominence of sound, it takes you back to almost a pre-verbal state, where one might think identity is first formed by the sounds and images one hears in early life. It is a confronting and intriguing space to inhabit. The piece is brave and strange, and certainly unlike anything else I have seen, but for me it lacked the structure and guidance I needed to be able to really appreciate the depth of meaning inherent within it, and to truly accept the artists’ offer to examine my inner self.
This is a polarising piece, and how you feel about it probably (ironically) comes down to your personality and the ways in which you digest art. The sensory overload stressed out the sensitive introvert inside me; the minimal language left my inner bibliophile with nothing familiar to grab onto; the high concept nature of it made the ‘art should be for everyone’ idealist in me cringe. I went alone (it is really a piece that requires a post-show debrief); I was tired (you should have your wits about you for this thing); and I hadn’t seen Persona (the piece is a radical re-imagining of Ingmar Bergman’s 1966 film). All of this led to a perfect storm of regret and resentment.
If I have a single bone to pick with Another Other, it is that I wish so deeply I’d been able to walk around the space, instead of being held captive in a chair. The set-up of the space means that you are bound to the rules and regulations of a ‘normal’ audience: you are to sit still, be quiet and deal with what is given to you. This feeling of being held captive contributed to the idea that we are all prisoners of our own mind, our own selves. For me, though, it made me opt out of a conversation I happily would have had with the artists if I’d been allowed to have some control over how I interacted with the piece.
The technical execution of Another Other is excellent. There are so many elements at play here, and the performers pull it off with skill and accuracy. It is high-art, and it is hard to handle. It is a piece that inspires extreme reactions, which is a testament to its intensity, but one in which the message is ultimately at risk of being lost in the pursuit of these reactions.