Social reboot

• The Existence Theatre group.

IT’S perhaps only in a few decades time that we will be able to gauge the lasting impact Covid has had on society.

Has social interaction been dealt a terminal blow? Or will friendships and social freedoms once taken for granted be cherished and nurtured like never before?

With Existence Theatre you can never boil down its production to a simple or cliched narrative – that would be sheer reductionism – but its latest offering Humanity Reenacted seems to explore a world that has changed beyond belief in the past few years.

“The many ambiguities that we have been exposed to in recent years, the enormous constraints that were brought on by newly prescribed structures, immediate change of regulations, all of this has left social wounds that cannot be healed so quickly,” says Existence Theatre co-founder Bello Benischauer.

“I wouldn’t call Humanity Reenacted abstract, it just reflects a confused society that tries to adjust to sudden change in search of meaning, identity and belonging.”

Featuring its usual beguiling and slightly outre mix of dance, drama, sound and visuals, Humanity Reeancted is unadulterated performance theatre.

But behind all the suggestion, sleight of hand and intellectual posturing, there is a an old fashioned tale of power and conquest.

“I wanted to write a piece that reflects the present and the future, but make it sound like the old days, when there was no globalisation in that sense,” Benischauer says. “A young king comes to power and tries to save his kingdom. But he lacks the strength to make decisions.

“Intrigue, abuse of power, submission and much more can be found in the play, which brings out the good, the bad and the repugnant. How far is man really willing to go to get what he needs or what he wants?”

Face-to-face

Co-founded about 10 years ago by Freo interdisciplinary artists Elisabeth M Eitelberger and Benischauer, Existence Theatre is a diverse, evolving ensemble that does about two shows a year.

“Our work investigates urgent, contemporary themes and stands for gender equality, diversity and cultural tolerance and against stigma and label and is seen as an extension of European performance art with a focus on Australian culture and identity,” Benischauer says.

“Physical touch through dance and crossing emotional boundaries between performers and audience are significant elements of Existence Theatre.”

Humanity Reenacted features a mix of nine international and WA performers from multicultural backgrounds and has been specifically designed to be performed at the PS Art Space on Pakenham Street in Fremantle.

“The PS with its unique architecture helps accentuate the works layers through sound, visual projections, unique stage set and costume design. It provides an open atmosphere that suits the works’ experimental aspects,” Benischauer says.

Benischauer and Eitelberger put their heart and soul into productions – they have been working on Humanity Reenacted for a year and describe it as their most ambitious project yet, clocking in at just under 1 hour and 50 minutes.

“I write my pieces from the gut. Our actors then implement the whole thing and invest a lot of energy in the whole thing,” Benischauer says.

“…I’m convinced that if someone watches this show, they won’t forget it for a long time and maybe they will feel that some things in their life are not so important. Because what really counts at the end of the day is all of us in our dealings with one another from person-to-person, and most importantly face-to-face.”

Humanity Reenacted is showing at the PS Art Space in Fremantle on February 2-4 at 8pm as part of the Fringe World festival. Tix at fringeworld. com.au/whats_on/humanity-reenacted-fw2023 and door sales from 7.30pm on the night. 

by STEPHEN POLLOCK

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