Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster (Brisbane Powerhouse and Mobile States)
Brisbane Powerhouse, Turbine Studio
The enigmatically titled “Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster” is a quirky show of lofty ambition as it sets out to present an anthropological exploration of the complexities of trying to be a better person. An incident lasting all of ten minutes is told from three different points of view: a woman is out running and sees a man throwing stones at a sitting duck. What happens next leaves the woman coming to terms with the event and its consequences and by proxy provides opportunity for the audience to be guided in examination of the ethics of intervention and the excuses we make for ourselves.
“Consider for a moment this moral conundrum” Nicola Gunn commands as she attempts to start the one-woman show with the story about a woman who is running by the water in Ghent, Belgium, when she witnesses a man who appears to be skimming stones on the water, actually throwing then at the duck, as two young children watch on. Should she do something and if so, what? Could his actions be tempered by other considerations (better he take his frustrations out on the duck as opposed to his wife or children perhaps)? What could be the consequences of confrontation in front of the man’s children?
In the 70 minutes that follow, the audience is faced with a range of such questions as all possibilities and perspectives are explored (even that duck has a say), but never as expected as Gunn’s direct-to-audience storytelling is delivered while completing a series of exercise drills around the stage (and even into the audience) in a series of exaggerated, stylised moments.
The result is at once confusing and distracting, detracting from its quality premise with unnecessary, unrelenting physicality, especially given the lack of correlation between Jo Lloyd’s carefully choreographed moves and the dialogue being delivered. And when, in the work’s final minutes, Gunn emerges as the duck, the revelation represents some of the show’s most effective moments as finally, for a few moments at least, she is standing still.
In contrast, the show’s rambling monologue style serves as asset to its audience engagement as the core story is inset with titbits of random information of the type told in purposeless conversations – about Belgium and its fictional detective Hercule Poirot, Scotland the merit of the movie “Brief Encounter”. And peppered throughout are a number of eloquent observations about art, peace and the temptation of temptation.
Gunn is a personable performer with a likeable manner. Her vocal delivery is naturally charming, despite the eccentric, athletic performance with which it is accompanied. Niklas Pajanti’s lighting is initially stark, however, intense colour fills the space as shades of grey begin to emerge from within ponderment of the woman’s predicament.
This also affords creation of some memorable images of shadowed movement and dazzling lasers as the work’s previously minimalist score swells to a lengthy finale of electronica thanks to Kelly Ryall’s hypnotic, synthesised soundscape, presumably from the ghetto blaster that appears on stage without any real relevance
Even though it is the duck that gets the final word, “Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster” leaves audiences with much to consider about its moral quandaries. It is very much a festival show in its meritorious focus on ideas, the impact of which is diluted by unnecessary theatrics and, therefore testament to the value of the statement that less is often more.