NEXT WAVE: Daniel Santangeli’s post-apocalyptic museum of civilisation ropes in its audience to create a melancholy, humorous and thoroughly enjoyable live art work.
Director Daniel Santangeli, coming off his 2011 Melbourne Fringe success Room 328, has created an immersive and totally enjoyable piece of live art in Wheyface.

There is a difficult reviewing question here: how much do I tell you about this production? Half the fun of the piece is in joining the performers in every new twist and turn, be it ridiculous, endearing or melancholy.

Clutching our tickets – grimy Trivial Pursuit cards – audiences are ushered into a dimly-lit museum of humanity, reconstructed after the apocalypse by survivors with only the faintest understanding of 20th-century ephemera. As we walk around, the museum’s attendants – Ngaire Dawn-Porter (Elizabeth Millington), Sold To (Polly Sara) and Cheerio (Jacinta Yelland) – ask for help in the interpretation of coffee cups, figurines and Sex and the City posters. The audience is roped in for all manner of off-kilter re-creations and tasks, which become more and more surreal as the work goes on.

Wheyface is not for the non-joiner; it is a show geared towards the kind of audient who has the words “Okay, why not?” on their lips at all times. Phoning it in as a viewer is, in Wheyface, a pretty sure road to reduced enjoyment.

The chaotic nature of the work means that no two performances will be alike, and no two experiences of the same performance will be alike. This is not just because of the performers or the space: it might hinge on an audience member’s ability to convincingly coo like a pigeon. The same chaos meant that it was occasionally hard to hear what was going on, or that one might miss something in the performance by standing in the wrong place.

Jonathan Oxlade’s set is utterly astonishing, being a collection of tampered-with and arrayed objects so fascinating that I could have spent an afternoon just wandering around in it. Every square inch screams ‘Photograph me, because I’m awesome!’ and I can only hope that it has been adequately documented.

The whole work is musically accompanied (and partially MC’d) by the highly talented Yeo Choong, who has a voice like really, really expensive imported Italian designer gravel, and who was a serious highlight of an already pretty damn fine performance.

Wheyface is the kind of work where having a cake-encrusted Rubik’s cube handed to you by a girl in a netball skirt, then taken away from you by a figure in a hazmat suit, seems completely par for the course.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Directed by Daniel Santangeli
Artistic Collaborator: Brian Lucas
Dramaturg: Genevieve Trace
AV design: Denis Hamilton
Production Designer: Jonathon Oxlade
Lighting Designer: Scott Barton
Sound Designer: Ryan Granger
Assistant to the Designer: Yvette Turnbull
Musical Director: Yeo Choong
Performed by Elizabeth Millington, Jacinta Yelland, Polly Sara and Yeo Choong

The Warehouse, Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall
May 19, 20, 22-27

Next Wave Festival
May 19 – 27

Nicole Eckersley

Tuesday 22 May, 2012

About the author

Nicole Eckersley is a Melbourne based writer, editor and reviewer.