Brisbane Powerhouse & Theatre Beating
Brisbane Powerhouse Park Mezzanine
December 16 – 20 2015
Reviewed by Rhumer Diball
…him is the story of a man immersed within a world he seems to have built for himself. The home-like space is lined with newspaper pages which create a comforting homely environment, that somehow also possesses an unsettling rejection of décor, not unlike skin peeling away after a bad sunburn.
Barnie Duncan emerges from his newspaper nest, slides out from underneath the embrace of a makeshift companion or lover, and begins his daily routine. His only companions are a white button up jacket stuffed with newspaper to resemble a human figure, an array of stationary items, such as a pen dangling from the ceiling from a string or a roll of masking tape, and the newspapers that greet him each day by shooting through the mail slot of the door of the performance space.
Quickly, we are introduced to a peculiar world and a particular human being.
With an instant sense of routine and organisation amongst a chaotic paper covered shelter, the focal character is evidently both a complex and conflicted human being.
The show’s beginnings are shaky at best. With the entrance of the daily newspaper comes an opportunity for the inhabitant to add layers of pages, information, entertainment, and challenges to his already overwhelming surroundings. The intriguing entrance of the newspaper unfortunately instigates a repetitive, and at times frustrating, jumble of mumbled crossword puzzle questions, calculated criteria statistics, excerpts from articles to read aloud, and an ongoing search to find, store, and connect pieces of information. While each instance of the performance’s beginnings were initially entertaining, their length and repetition became tedious as fast as the first newspaper shot through the mail slot. The second half of the show, however, made sitting through the initial tedium worthwhile.
Through the creation of wings made from newspaper pages and a line of masking tape that stretched across the room’s width, Duncan finally claimed the space as a performer and soared into our hearts with a welcome show of simultaneous bravery and vulnerability.
While the production’s beginnings demonstrated evidence of a human ironically trying to escape the outside world by hiding within a room made of information about the outside world, the second half initiated a shift in perspective and objective from quirky character. The quirky character begins with an obsession with completing crossword puzzles, weather forecasts, obituaries, horoscopes and advertisements, to name a few. These simple daily tasks became loaded with significance when each of the newspaper’s materials were revealed as evident layers to both the character’s existence outside of the paper shelter and the story behind why he may be living within it.
As reminders of the reality of the outside world came bursting through the shelter’s door in the form of newspapers, the character is forced to face the reality of his outside world and to make a choice about his future existence. With each new paper comes news loaded with reminders of the outside world’s progression, the inside world’s standstill existence, and most importantly, the character’s use of his time as days continue to go by.
Once the routines fizzle out and the shift in outlook begins, …him becomes a captivating story of choice, connection and how we choose to protect ourselves when faced with the realities of the world.