CAC Double Bill: Luke George & Daniel Kok

Image Right by Christian Glaus

Image Left by Jess Busby

I have missed quite a few local performance offerings lately,  namely Big Dance, the global get- together filmed from the Opera House forecourt, and the second (or third) instalment of Game of Seven facilitated by Force Majeure at Carriageworks.  So I decided fairly late on the Saturday afternoon to attend the double bill with Luke George and Daniel Kok.  I left the house at 5pm for a 7pm start. Of course the bus was running a few minutes late and the train a few minutes more than the bus. By the time the train eased to the Campbelltown platform I was in the get-ready position to sprint to my destination. Actually my sprint was more like a flat-footed shuffle in shoes with absolutely no cushioning. On the way I met Margie Medlin who decided to make a dash for it with me. Unfortunately her pace was just that little bit too fast and I was thanking all kinds of deities that she was unable to maintain it. While she came to a halt, I kept going in famous potato farmer fashion, only to find out that I had to wear a sheet for the entirety of the first performance.

By this time my body was producing sweat to cool down, which was not helping with the mandatory bedsheet, complete with two Casper the friendly ghost eyeholes. I had a dilemma, I wanted to see the performance, but mounting claustrophobia was causing me to systematically bare skin from other parts of my body, in order to keep up the façade of anonymity. I joined a seated shroud propped against one of the walls, determined to see this through.

Meanwhile, Luke George began his solo Not About Face, by addressing us verbally and in delayed unison with another performer, or was it a recorded version of himself, as with a video he later introduced? He danced with and without his sheet and spouted text about his actions and directed our actions, to make a sound of colour, to press our bodies against him, against one another, to touch the walls and to spoon, to share our feelings, to take the sheets off after witnessing him swap clothes with an audience member and dance.

I felt resistance. If it weren’t for my preoccupation with remaining sane, in a costume that made me feel like I was wearing a hijab, contemplating a lifetime of donning such an oppressive garment, I probably wouldn’t have joined in anyway. Luke reminded me of the main character in a book I’d read more than a decade ago, titled Elmer Gantry, about a young American conman who was mistakenly ordained as a minister.

Reading the aims and questions that acted as a provocation for this work, namely ‘Do I need to believe it to perform it? ’ and ‘What is it to be with ourselves and to be with each other? ’ then I think Luke succeeded.

The second piece on the program was Daniel Kok’s Cheerleader of Europe. Another solo offering, this time in the theatre, in traditional seated fashion. He began by introducing himself, then sitting in a chair to share a heartfelt story about the accidental death by mishandling of a firearm by a soldier, making additional reference to a lousy bunch of misfit soldiers from a platoon he led.

I did not question the veracity of the information, as I had discovered afterward, other audience members had. Instead it did the trick; I felt sympathy for the performer. So much so that when his preoccupation with the machinations of the European Union were played out onstage in extremis, with pompoms and flags, on a stage dressed as a ball court, I cheered when he said ‘cheer’, my voice repeated after him, modulating in increments as directed. I was duped by the soldier narrative into being kind, setting aside my distrust momentarily, wanting to cheer this visiting artist on.

At the same time I was thinking, ‘I don’t give a shit about the state of the European Union. What relevance does this have to me? ‘ But still I acquiesced.

My first thoughts were to discuss the difference between audience engagement and audience participation. I had felt the direction too simplistic, that my involvement was flawed because I wasn’t given enough choice. On reflection, it was this dressed-up coercion and my reaction to the unconditional surrender that made this an interesting experience.

I did note however, that the audience demographic was made up of other performance artists and aspiring interdisciplinary performance-makers, mainly residing in the inner city. We had all made the trek. While I was glad because I was assured a lift home, I did wonder about the local demographic, why they seemed under-represented and how this double bill might have been received by them.

The two artists are now working together in residence at Campbelltown Arts Centre. It will be interesting to experience what they create together.

– by Vicki Van Hout