The Object Lesson

A work of great beauty, Sorbelle's piece is a playful inquisition into sentimentality and its implications.
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The Object Lesson
implicates its audience immediately. Our involvement is solicited before we even arrive, with an email the day before asking us to bring an item in a box to add to the set. We’re not to just bring it; we are to think about it first – how it fits into our life, why it’s there, what it means. Entering the space, the set (created by Geoff Sobelle and installed by Steven Dufala) wraps the whole room, audience included, in a mountain of boxes and clutter that soars to the ceiling.

After ten minutes of invited rummaging, and the process of adding our own objects to the set, Sorbelle emerges from among us and the show part of the evening begins.His is a soliloquy on a life in objects, a playful inquisition into sentimentality and its implications. An object can be imbued with such meaning, rendered animate by it almost, but remain meaningless to any but the imbuer. Sorbelle is buried in baggage, lost in the series of small moments that make up his life but are gone now, that remain only in what stuff happened to be present at the time. The audience are brought in to help with the story telling, but by the time we are, Sorbelle has made us brave. He’s been creating intimacy from the start and we’re all in this together. By the end, it feels like we are in a room full of friends.

So much of the show is Sorbelle’s performance, though you wouldn’t know it at first. The show is made to seem cobbled together but is in fact tightly orchestrated; so much is given over to potentially random situations but somehow control is retained. Sorbelle’s is an intensely physical performance, constructed from subtle moments of impeccable timing and weighted pause. He guides us with simple, delicate, deliberate gestures and continuously moves the stage and focal point, blurring lines between us and him, and us and each other. The process is gentle; the result a kind of magic.

The tech elements are embedded in the walls of boxes. Christopher Kuhl’s lighting is a series of lamps scattered around the room; Nick Kourtides sound crackles from tape machines and radios buried in the rubble of the set. There is something familiar and warm about the whole thing, safe and curious. The detail is incredible and all elements work themselves into a strange beauty.  

At the end, the illusionist Sorbelle enacts proper magic, producing first a day and then a whole life from a box far too small to hold it. The show ends darkly, before Kuhl plunges us into black for real. We are sent back to our own houses, heavy with their clutter and all its assigned meaning.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Perth International Arts Festival Presents:
The Object Lesson

Creator and Performer: Geoff Sobelle
Director: David Neumann
Scenic Installation: Steven Dufala
Lighting Designer: Christopher Kuhl
Sound Designer: Nick Kourtides 

Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre of WA
Thur 11 – Sun 21 Feb

PIAF 2016
11 Feb – 6 Mar

Zoe Barron
About the Author
Zoe Barron is a writer, editor and student nurse living in Fremantle, WA.