REVIEW: a library for the end of the world


sonder
, n. “the realisation that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own” (The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows)

Vena Cava presents an unusual work-in-development devised by Brisbane’s own Sarah Winter.

a library for the end of the world is a interactive work that challenges each solitary participant to explore memory and theory of mind. Through headphones, a guiding voice asks us some big questions — amongst them: if the world were ending today, what one memory would you leave behind?

Each half-hour session­­­ takes one traveller on something of a treasure hunt, guided by audio, to the library’s hidden location. The Anywhere Theatre Festival event page shrouds the library in mystery, but in doing so excludes important accessibility information: the production’s first half is a walking tour, with stairs.

This show embodies the spirit of ATF. Winter (disembodied) stages her performance outside of a traditional space — with the participant at the centre of the experience. West End is made strange and new through its frame as theatre. I am hypnotised: a great lover of audio books and spoken word, I follow Winter’s voice down the rabbit hole. It is simultaneously a meditative and thrilling experience to be led by someone unseen into unknown places.

a library for the end of the world

The library itself, once you find it, is an enchanting space. Its design hints at an outside-of-time otherworldliness — with the sensation that whoever works there may return at any moment. I can’t help but finger through curios and ephemera while listening to the library’s growing collection of memories. The analogue crackle of audiotapes is at once ghostly and fire-warm.

Throughout the show, I search through my own memories for the right one to leave behind. But when the time comes to hit record, my brain decides to tell another. That sudden memory seems as revealing as a tarot card. I leave the library pensive — even melancholy; I want more time alone within that experience to consider all the questions I’ve been asked.

A day on — at the time of writing — and the memory of the library has taken on the surreal, ephemeral glow of a dream.

Anywhere Theatre Festival runs from 7 to 17 May. Due to popular demand, a library for the end of the world’s season has been extended until 24 May.

Review: The Travelling Sisters Let Loose (Anywhere Fest)

Review by Nerissa Rowan

It’s the last night of the Anywhere Theatre Festival, and the show is sold out. We meet on a street corner, before being led down a dark alleyway. What awaits us? Should we be frightened? Is this a trap?

But from behind the trees emerges a brightly lit garden surrounding a beautiful old Queenslander. The verandah is full of waiting audience members, drinking tea, coffee and hot chocolate. It has the feel of a garden party, as we run into people we know, chat and take in the surroundings.

Soon the front doors open and we are led into a spacious living room. I settle on a mattress piled with cushions, closest to the fireplace. The atmosphere is friendly, and we feel we’ve arrived at a friends’ party. When the hostesses arrive, there are magic tricks and party games which get everyone joining in. Tonight is clearly about having a good time.

The Travelling Sisters Let Loose is a comfortable cabaret, which loosely links stories, songs and traveller’s tales. Lucy Fox and Ell Sachs tell us how they found this “abandoned” house, and how they’ve passed their time since — bathing in memories and music. They wander the room, so no matter where you sit, you’ll be in the perfect spot for some part of the action.

The subject matters are many and varied, including love, loss, losing face and losing inhibitions. Whether fact or fiction, they feel like personal stories, told with real emotion in conversational style, in song or in poetry. The songs are quirky and clever, and the voices are beautiful. One epic song is accompanied with a gorgeous animation projected on a wall.

Throughout the night, the audience is treated to snacks. The relaxed atmosphere helps us feel that we can sing along or clap in time to the music just as we would among friends. Some are asked to help build a blanket fort. It would be difficult not to smile — but why would you try?

The Travelling Sisters Let Loose is an enormously warm feel-good show. It’s staged like a family concert — but my family is nowhere near as talented as this pair. I look forward to finding out what new adventures they will take us on.

The Travelling Sisters Let Loose ran from 8 to 19 May, 2013. Anywhere Theatre Festival