Getting in touch with the self and death
THEATRE Infirmary Devised and directed by Katerina Kokkinos-Kennedy, with Clair Korobacz. Triage Live Art Collective. Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall, November 7.
The young, healthy and able body is invisible to itself, transparent, open to the world and sensing only the world. What it knows of itself comes from mirrors — or, nowadays, selfies — and from the touch and actions of others. It can’t know itself any more than it can tickle itself. Being is perceiving.
Illness, chronic pain and age make a body translucent and infinitely self-aware. The mind can no longer ignore the body, and the external world becomes diffuse through the senses.
Triage Live Art Collective’s latest show, Infirmary, asks us, individually, how do you sense your body? Doubtless, your answer will differ from mine.
Limited to roughly a dozen audience members a session, Infirmary is experienced in hushed isolation. We’re each assigned a carer (in my case Victoria Morgan, trained actress and trained nurse), then assigned a hospital bed.
We’re separated by accordion-pleated curtains, then further cut off from one another visually (our eyes are bandaged) and aurally (first we’re connected up to a stethoscope, then headphones).
This is not an exercise in heightening our senses, even if we are subjected to various sounds and scents, from mild essential oils to the clean, fruity sting of cloves. The touch, too, is muted and unobtrusive. Calming. In this approximation of a medically induced coma, we’re freed of the obligation of responding in any way.
What’s truly remarkable is the way Infirmary takes us into a time-warping state in which we are barely conscious yet still receptive and thoughtful, in which we are completely disoriented but tenaciously focused. Katerina KokkinosKennedy’s direction is high risk but confident and exact.
Infirmary is a kind of rehearsal for death but it’s a death without panic or fear, death as the body’s ultimate opacity, death as a turning inward of the self. It is a unique experience.
Tickets: $35. Bookings: online. Duration: 70min, no interval. Until November 18.