Even before setting foot into the theatre, the audience is engaged and challenged by What Am I Supposed To Do (WAISTD). Co-creators Sarah Aiken and Rebecca Jensen of Deep Soulful Sweats, introduce this ‘experimental and participatory’ performance with a captivating dialogue followed by a quick, confronting activity designed to encourage awareness of personal thought.
Watching a lone rollerblader silently traverse the stage, the expectant audience fidgets uncomfortably. The lights dim as the tempo of eerie music steadily increases, creating anticipation as performers emerge from the darkness and the show begins.
Through the proficient use of numerous props, as well as engagement by reading scripts, audience participation is integral to the narrative from the onset. The uncertainty created by cleverly blurring the line between performer and spectator encourages everyone involved to look within, immersing themselves into this thought-provoking experience.
Utilising similarities and comparisons within the separate groups on-stage, Aiken and Jensen enable audience members to relate to each other and the ‘conversation’ taking place in many different ways, thus reinforcing their belief solutions are within all of us. Carefully thought out and well performed, WAISTD consistently provokes questions and the search for answers. Every interaction, prop, movement and staging decision combines cleverly to reiterate the overarching idea that the future of our society depends on our actions right now. Sitting back is no longer a viable option.
Consistency proves effective as the audience is taken on an eye-opening journey through ‘the cultural detritus of colonial Australia’, that makes for easier understanding of the complex issues our society is currently facing, and the impact that will be felt by future generations.
Are we truly ‘walking into the future facing backwards’ and, if so, how do we work together to turn around and face the environmental catastrophe that lies ahead?
The inherent simplicity and grace of the performers’ final choreography enables the audience to engage with the stimulating words spoken on the audio track. Contemporary dance movements are often performed in a contagion, aligning with the concept that one person’s actions can create a ripple effect, yet also highlighting the importance of the people coming together to be the catalyst for change.
Throughout this ‘irreverent cautionary tale’, the display of multiple issues our society faces is confronting, yet it comes together to leave both performers and spectators hopeful and eager to make the changes necessary to help create a sustainable future.
This non-traditional experimental work suggests an exciting future for these focussed and socially-conscious artists. Aiken and Jensen are worthy recipients of 2019’s Take Over! commission and are strongly supported by their hard-working and passionate performance and production team.