Fringe Review: The Disappearances Project

by Jane

Half-light. Two people sit in two wooden chairs. On the black screen, lights move in and out of view, in and out of focus. They are but reflections, lights’ movement captured in passing. Through the electronica score, we hear the murmur of water.  A voice cuts through.

These are the stories of the people who knew, or who once knew, the people now lost. Missing. Disappeared. Weeks, years, decades. Those left behind wait in limbo. Neither coming nor going.  For those left, a person erased with no method of leaving, a gap in knowledge, an incomplete history begetting an incomplete present, an unimaginable future.

Performers Irving Gregory and Yana Taylor drive us through this verbatim theatre work, through the words of the parents and the children, the friends, the acquaintances who passed for just a moment to share a lipstick. In The Disappearances Project we share a different view of the missing, concentric circles of the people they once knew. Stories that overlap and are undifferentiated. And at their centre: nothing. Disappeared.

We hear stories of the fears and hopes and bureaucracy. Where does the right to disappear and for a new self-determination end, and the rights of a family begin? Will those who wait be okay if the gone don’t return? Will they be okay if they do?

Impeccably timed, Gregory and Taylor’s characterisations build and relax through the hour, as the show alternately builds to intensity before easing down. They sit, almost unmoving, for the whole performance, as behind them we watch a film by Taylor: un-named, nearly empty Australian streets driven by under light of dusk and dawn.  The very occasional person becomes a surprise; in a show about disappearance, we come to expect the empty.  On the edge of unemotional, Gregory and Taylor’s characters are wearied by the word, it seems it might be all they have left are these stories.

Frank Mainoo’s lighting holds in the production, Gregory and Taylor often sitting in just a square of light, at other times lighting changing with the changing tensions of the piece: faces obscured in shadow; stage awash in light.  Paul Prestipino’s sound blends a moulding electronica – also building off and with Gregory and Taylor’s changing intensity – with referential sounds to the piece. As someone tries to recall as they tried to recall the identity of keys in the background we hear a slight jingle; we hear snatches of traffic in the background; the mundane parts of the world taking over.

Then Prestipino’s sound falls away, and sitting in the quiet I found myself oddly aware of my nerves watching this piece.  It’s a piece that demands your concentration, and I felt like I was almost relaxed in the concentration, in the quiet focus requested by the play. Then, as the elements which I was focusing fell away, I became more away of my body, my heart thudding, the tension which I was carrying as I heard these stories.

We share with our performers their space in the void; they drive us through with the stories and voices overlapping; harrowing stories which aren’t quite hopeless, but often are not far off.   In the final moments, we share with our performers the silence, and the near dark. The Disappearances Project is about those who are gone, certainly. But more than that, it is about those who are left behind, and about saving their lives and their stories. Maybe if they’re shared something more can be done.

Version 1.0 presents The Disappearances Project, concept and research by Yana Taylor and David Williams, devisers Irving Gregory, Paul Prestipino, Yana Taylor and David Williams.  Performers Irving Gregory and Yana Taylor, co-directors Yana Taylor and David Williams, composer Paul Prestipino, original lighting designer Frank Mainoo, film director Yana Taylor, editor Dan Jameison, camera Sean Bacon. At AC Arts Main Theatre with the Adelaide Fringe, until 3/3/2012. More information and tickets.