Spectrum review by David Casey
Seen 17th May
Performance season 9th to 17th May, at Summit Restaurant, Mt Coot-tha
If you’re someone like me who tolerates small-talk for the sake of the famed late-night conversations about philosophy, existence and spirituality, this is the show is for you.
Light, Darkness, Strength, Foundation, Growth, Wealth, Pride, Wisdom, Bliss, and Generosity have manifested themselves in human form to settle once and for all which among them is the most powerful, which among them has the most followers on earth. The show’s premise is simple but effective – converse with these ‘crowns’, determine which one’s philosophy you most align with, and vote for them. There are some pretty obvious parallels there given the proximity to the federal election, I only wish I could vote for lust in the senate. I’ve talked in some of these reviews about the importance of enrolment in immersive performance, and this show does it very tidily. As you arrive, the structure of the show and your responsibility as a participant is laid out clearly: ask questions of the crowns, and when the time comes, vote for the one you most relate to. As a result, as soon as the performers appeared and opened the show, I noticed that the audience were very quick to engage, lacking the sheepishness of audience in traditional performances who are pulled out of their comfy chairs onto a stage to dance for the amusement of their peers.
The top of Mt Coot-tha was a great venue for multiple reasons – it introduces people to very cool Brisbane spaces they may not have known of or appreciated before, it gives a gorgeous context to the performance not only visually but narratively (what place more fitting to commune with otherworldly beings than a mountain’s summit?), and it also was just visible enough so that passersby could become curious and learn about the festival.
As someone who is not especially gifted in the art of conversation, I was nervous at the prospect of participating in a show entirely based around talking with strangers. I found however that my anxieties quickly faded due to some intelligent structuring of each crown’s conversation. Early on in talking to each crown, they would ask what their represented quality meant to you, immediately getting me into that crunchy late-night conversation territory as I debated the nature of wisdom with someone personifying that quality. My favorite part of this performance was the depth each performer dove into their crown, embracing the breadth of definition they represented: Wealth, despite his gold-laden appearance, won me over in talking instead about a wealth of knowledge, and the capability of people who are rich in experience, ambition and, yes, money, to shape the world into a better place. Strength talked about compassion and supporting others, Lust about knowing what you want in life and being able to pursue it, Generosity talking about being generous also to yourself and taking care of yourself when you need it. Each crown I spoke with, even those I had little interest in initially, was incredibly persuasive and able to draw out the benefit of the quality they represented in interesting and fresh ways.
For those who need a story or plot to hook into to be interested in a show, this may not be the one for you. While there is a tension of the crowns dividing themselves into four factions and some inter-character plots as a result of that, this was only uncovered if you were talking to the right crowns about the right subjects, or you happened to be nearby when one broke rank to discuss or antagonize members of another faction. The end of the audience interaction is signaled by the crowns meeting in the middle and beginning to argue loudly – while this makes a lot of sense given that the philosophies of each were literally what constitutes their existence, and those who contradict that would be vilified, for and audience member the arguments that broke out drowned each other out, and I would have preferred to hear those take place over the course of the performance as opposed all at once at the very end. I’m very excited to see this show go further and will be among the first to buy tickets in any future performance seasons.