Sean Tuan John, O Brutus

Review in Issue 9-3 | Autumn 1997

The twentieth century phenomenon of the ‘loser’ is given voice and character in Sean Tuan John’s new work O Brutus. It is a dynamic solo performance. Dysfunctional behaviour, obsession and dependency are explored through dance, storytelling and the urgency of the main protagonist Augustus Jones.

Alienation from a society obsessed with normality is a central theme. Phones become lifelines: a means to be heard, to have an effect on somebody – anybody. And yet they are alienating in their inability to replace the ache for human contact. Augustus straight-jackets himself with the phone cord and recites Blondie’s ‘Hanging on the Telephone’ as he rolls ensnared about the stage. In desperation his shoe becomes a phone. Suddenly we’re in Beckett territory and I half expect a cry to the void of ‘God have pity on me!’ These are brilliantly realised scenes.

As the programme notes point out this performance is not considered the final product. This is evident in Tuan John’s narrative technique which needs more exposure to audience reaction to rid it of its lapses into monotony and lack of colour. As Brutus, the villain, he failed to develop real menace. The use of video footage was interesting but occasionally indulgent. As a change of audience focus it was a poor substitute for Tuan John’s live performance and set too far back to have suitable impact. This aside, O Brutus is an eye-opener, a brutal yet life-affirming performance.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Jul 1997

This article in the magazine

Issue 9-3
p. 24