>skinworks by spell#7 / bodies in flight

>reviewed by jeremy samuel

>date: 26 oct 2003
>time: 8pm
>venue: esplanade recital studio
>rating: ***1/2

>tired already? go home then
>review junkie? whitney, give them this click to sniff

>look, we know that you need to know that we, as responsible reviewers, have some quantifiable categories to rate productions, and are not just relying on some undefinable instinct or gut feeling. So to put your mind at ease, we will give you a logical rating system based on the practitioner's vision / and the reviewer's response of a particular production. Here it is then: ***** : Transcendent / Rapturous. ****: Crystal / Appreciative. ***: Transmitted / Thoughtful. **:Vague / Unsatisfied. * : Uncommunicated / Mystified. Yet in the end, you will feel that this is (1) a cheap attempt to justify the subjective arbitrariness of our rating system (2) buttressed by an interest in the logical (and inevitable) categorisation of such productions, which is (3) undermined by the cheapness of the attempt, and (4) confused by the creeping feeling you are getting that we are dead serious in our feeling that this rating system is an accurate description of the content, intent and quality of the production. Oh please -- does it even matter now? Look, at least we tried.


A large screen hangs over the open space of the Esplanade Recital Studio, unsettlingly empty with its seating stand dismantled. On the screen are windows - as in the operating system - a projection, you realise, of a computer screen that stands at one corner of the stage.

The audience huddles in a corner of the space. Beyond the screen, five of six performers mill, then start moving, running across the stage, touching an imaginary wall on each lap. They take turns to sit at the computer, manipulating the windows on the screen, each of which contains a short film clip.

The people in these clips are no one you recognise - the images are grainy, and at first you think they might be the performers, but upon closer inspection they turn out to be strangers. The windows are labelled, and most simply do what they say on the box - one called "Stacy stomping" shows a woman - Stacy, presumably - doing just that. A man called Ben removes all his clothes in a remarkably unerotic striptease. And so on.

>>'The trademark Spell #7 elements are there - quirky humour, intriguing soundscapes, a sense of urban desolation.'

SKINWORKS, a collaboration between local group spell#7 and British group Bodies in Flight (insofar as these distinctions have meaning, given how much both groups exist on the internet), looks at "cyberlove" - relationships formed on the internet, or more accurately the lost souls surfing the world wide web searching for these relationships. Like the random boxes on the screen, they seem to be saying, we are random units of feeling groping towards each other. "Cyberlove is exploring fantasy," they tell us. "It can be anything you want it to be."

After a time, the performers lead the audience, who have up to now been standing, to chairs arranged haphazardly across the space. One man goes around taking pictures of individuals, while the other actors tell us what they are looking for. These are scraps of nothingness, like personal ads from the far side. Kaylene Tan falls over constantly as she speaks, taking a few steps then stumbling. A tall man with wanker's pallor describes his dream woman as sweat beads on his forehead.

The trademark spell#7 elements are there - quirky humour, intriguing soundscapes, a sense of urban desolation - yet somehow this is not as engaging as their previous work. There is plenty to love, and the performers are flawless, but the show as a whole is not as completely realised as, say, 'Beautiful Losers', which felt like a whole universe. This is ever so slightly fragmented, a bit of song, a bit of verse, all in themselves enthralling but not truly adding up to a whole.

What SKINWORKS does give us is a deep feeling of the vulnerability inspired by love. "When I come, I hurt," says one young man to us. "I bruise when you think about me. Don't hurt me any more." The performance ends with the windows on the screen again, only now the pictures of the audience are mixed in with the ones already there - we are now part of cyberlove. "If you like what you see," the actors chant, "bookmark me." I do, and I will. Find out more at www.skinworks.org