Here Is The Message You Asked For… Don’t Tell Anyone Else @ Space Theatre, Adelaide 3/11/2018

The audience filters in to the Space Theatre to witness what appears to be a futuristic hyper real dormitory or adjacent apartment stage setting. Three parallel bed bunks are shared by seven girls in slight variations of slightly fetishistic cosplay outfits, some appear to be sleeping while others are occupied texting. White pillows are situated onstage in front of the bed bunk structure and a further two bunk beds are on either side of the stage at right angles. Projected above the set are digital clock numbers displaying the actual time. Some more adventurous audience members choose to sit on the pillows and others on the lower bunks. Prior to coming into the show the audience had been encouraged to download the WeChat app to contribute and even before the show has officially begun it is noted to be live streaming on YouTube.

The show begins as though it is morning with the girls “waking” and those in the outer beds proceed to interact with the virtual world via their electronic devices (mobile phones, lap top computers), their screens projected onto the see-through fabric in front of their bed spaces. The remaining three girls in the middle (one on top, two below) perform a rhythmic experimental instrumental on analogue synthesizer, bass guitar and drum pads respectively.

There is no displayed awareness or acknowledgement of the audience or even each other at this time. This focus in upon oneself and a disconnection with surroundings is at the heart of the show. Even the audience if they were to stop and consider their voyeuristic role would probably realise that they are just as separate from the person they are sitting next to as the girls are from each other. There is a further level of separation and disconnection in that the language being spoken by the girls is Mandarin and most likely not understood by most of the viewers and even when interaction with the audience occurs in the latter portion of the show it is in a limited broken English.

While there is no apparent narrative, there are a series of episodes during which the girls at times interact with each other most notably when some of the girls join for a slumber party on one of the beds. Other vignettes include two girls leaving their beds to venture onstage to perform stylised dancing before one pretends to throw pillows at people in the audience (a precursor of what was to come later), and four of the girls ritualistically, slowly exchange places in an anticlockwise cycle across the bunks surrounding the band while they are performing.

There are occasional lulls during the show when the performers fall back into the habit of seemingly checking their social media feeds but over time there is a gradual move away from the earlier directionless but maybe the fact that this performance apparently lacks substance is what it is really about anyway, that this is just… life, a snapshot of the culture of now.

In the latter part of the show, a couple of the girls wander among the audience seated on stage and this is when the show begins to become more physically interactive, culminating in the four girls leaving the stage and walking up the centre aisle into the audience, closing a curtain on those audience members left behind onstage. This is not the end of the show though as the girls reach the back of the auditorium and then start to use plush toys as projectiles into the audience. There is laughter and surprise and a soft toy pillow fight almost starts when some audience members participate by hurling the toys back towards the girls. In the chaos, the girls put on Pokemon oneseys and start using bubble guns on the audience and the experience becomes something akin to a live show by the Flaming Lips. All the while the three piece girl band remain on stage performing an extended post-rock exercise, a part of but apart from whatever else is going on at the time.

There’s a final good bye from the girls as they leave and then the audience make their way out of the Space Theatre clutching onto the plush toys secretly hoping and relieved when they are not asked to return them as they leave, a keepsake souvenir from the unorthodox performance and art installation that they have experienced in the preceding hour and a half.

OzAsia review by Jason Leigh 

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