Mem Morrison & Paradocs Film, Undo / Jacqueline and Nicolee Smith, The Box

Review in Issue 18-4 | Winter 2006

Mem Morrison’s return to his schooldays in Undo is a very interesting performance in many ways: a combination of documentary film, recited poems, and physical performance. A particularly strong element is its inclusion of the audience. Being asked to rise, open our hymn books and sing, the audience participates actively in re-creating Mem’s schooldays; it is also interesting to see how the gaze is turned and he observes us, while many members of the public can be seen to glance around, observing each other. Similarly, the presentation of his school photos, handed out to everyone in a sealed envelope, leads to an atmosphere of shared childhood memories. Mem does not coerce his audience into participatory acts, but plays skilfully with distance and the direction of the gaze. Even during the film that documents some of his classmates’ memories and their reaction to Mem’s photo, arguably one of the most passive moments for the audience, he is still sitting on the stage, between us and the screen, and one wonders which way he is looking…

The Box is also a mixture of film and performance designed to involve the audience, here in an exploration of fear. While the film (in order to introduce the topics of the causes of fears such as arachnophobia) uses the loose story of a victim turned guru, Dr D. Ablo and usherette Candy create live effects that accompany the images on the screen. The idea is promising. Sitting in a darkened small box, looking towards the screen, one’s back and side are vulnerable for direct audience–performer interaction, and the images on the screen prepare the audience for unpleasant surprises. The concept would, however, benefit greatly from practical improvements: with the exception of a monstrous spider that passed our heads fast enough to prevent second thoughts, most elements of the performance are slightly too foreseeable to create the desired effect. An interesting approach, but here the spectators’ distance would have to be reduced considerably by better timing, better lighting and a bit of magic to allow the audience to explore their own demons.

Presenting Festival
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. May 2006

This article in the magazine

Issue 18-4
p. 31