Under Sedation: Canberra Verse Remixed. Edited and directed by Adele Chynoweth. The Street Theatre. Until October 8. Bookings: 02 6189 1816 or email@example.com.
Under Sedation: Canberra Verse Remixed is not a play. It's a performance text. Under Adele Chynoweth's direction performers Ruth Pieloor and Ben Drysdale take on a collection from poets and song makers who have all had some connection to the Canberra region. They turn it into a thought-inducing look at the human condition with a Canberra twist or two that can include reference to a Murrays bus as well as the odd self-serving politician.
Chynoweth's researches have unearthed the published, the unpublished and the songs that have come out of this place.
Omar Musa's My Generation becomes the repeated pulse of young anger, Fred Smith's song The Dust of Uruzgan tells of the soldiers who come back damaged (or don't come back at all) and Dorothy Aucherlonie (Green)'s Waiting for the Post is about those waiting back home for news from a war. There's AIDS, there's sex, there's drugs and a hint of rock'n'roll.
But it's bleak old A.D, Hope's poem Under Sedation that sets the tone. "Walk warily!" is how it starts but Pieloor and Drysdale's characters don't or can't always follow that advice and there is grief. Maimed soldiers, a pregnancy that goes wrong, images of a memorial to AIDS victims in John-Karl Stokes' AIDS Blanket drift through, offset by streaks of humour in Adrian Caesar's Politician Retires and P.S. Cottier's The ineffable boredom of Polonius.
Pieloor and Drysdale deal with the changes of character and mood and situation with a good deal of deftness and power. The Street's studio space takes very well to an in-the-round configuration and the performers make the most of opportunities to interact with the odd audience member. Spare lighting (Linda Buck) and design (Imogen Keen), sound (Shoeb Ahmad) and choreography (Emma Strapps) are a delicate support to the work.
The list of verse and song is in the program and is long. But what that list does, and what this piece does is to send you back to ferreting out the originals and following up Mark O'Connor, Geoff Page and Kevin Gilbert. And my bet is that no two people will follow up the same things, so various is the material.
Under Sedation is essentially a mood piece but it's also a piece about place and times and part of the vital business of history and identity.