By Leah Vlatko
When I chatted to Daisy Sanders about her new work ‘Status Room’, she encouraged audience members to arrive with ‘no expectations’ (see the full interview here). As a huge fan of this beautiful theatre dance piece, I would love to be able to preserve the mystery and excitement of arriving at the Blue Room with little idea of the adventure in store. I cannot guarantee that my review won’t give too much away as I describe how the traditional boundaries between performer/audience were blurred, the alternative communication techniques employed on entry and exit to the theatre, and the technical brilliance co-devisers Daisy Sanders and Shuling Wong demonstrated when dancing.
If you would like to arrive at this show as a tabula rasa, as Sanders recommends, I encourage you to skip this piece and get yourself along to a show as soon as possible (come back after you’ve seen it, we can discuss).
On arrival at The Blue Room, the audience was provided with small envelopes containing three questions: ‘What are you not feeling?’, ‘Where are you?’ and ‘Who are you not with?’. Completed answers to these questions could be exchanged for fortune cookies before the show.
The theatre was arranged traversely to allow the audience to be confronted with views of each other, in addition to the performers and mirrors, and Sanders and Wong began standing opposite each other at the entrance with phones obscuring their faces. They then threw themselves, often literally, into a interactive and busy, and sometimes overwhelming, rhythm of dance and theatre, linked by a thoughtful, open examination of social media. Rather than adopting characters, the recent WAAPA graduates used their own experience to touch upon the darker sides of how interaction, sexuality, and connectivity operate in our modern world.
In the lead up to the show, the two very different social media users gave the other control of their Facebook account, and it was clear this informed their understanding of the issues explored. The contrast between Wong’s love of constant stimulation and Sanders’ persistent longing for privacy was an important part of this piece, and whilst neither perspective was condemned or celebrated, each was investigated and forced to examine its own reflection.
The use of music throughout this piece was integral to its meaning. Lighting and Sound Designer Joe Lui created a soundtrack which included everything from original instrumental work to pop and folk favourites from Florence + the Machine and Laura Marling. Sanders even scribbled lines from Marling’s ‘Goodbye England (Covered in Snow)’ across a series of mirrors, wondering desperately what it was that made her blue.
After the show culminated in a dizzyingly powerful dance routine (that they had been loosely following since the piece began), Sanders explained that the meaning of the envelopes was to construct an ‘anti-[Facebook] status’ based on the answers to questions. Scattering them on the ground, everyone was asked to take an envelope from the collection and share another audience members answers to the ‘Status Room’ Facebook page through an online post. What was the point of this? Surely the disjointed words would be meaningless? It was strange to consider that social media users who would usually share this kind of private thought with the internet might experience discomfort at seeing their feelings published publicly (albeit anonymously) by a stranger.
Less-connected audience members may find this nuanced critique of social media alienating, and it is unclear how much those in the audience without a Facebook account (about half) related to the themes of the piece. The language of the online world is a unique and complete language, with its own rules for grammar, syntax, and sharing. Limited understanding of this language could limit one’s understanding of the piece. That being said, however, the themes of communication, narcissism, and being self-conscious of criticism are universal, and the technical beauty of the piece can be appreciated regardless.
‘Status Room’ is showing 8:30pm at the Blue Room until Saturday November 1.
Images by Nik Babic.