A moving piece of physical theatre at Melbourne Fringe
The cognitive dissonance that is Déjà Vu has long fascinated artists; it is the entire basis of Alain Resnais’s 1961 film Last Year at Marienbad and it even crops up in Hollywood blockbusters, memorably described as a glitch in The Matrix. Andi Snelling uses it in shifting, obfuscating ways in her new show for Melbourne Fringe.
Snelling is a dancer with an actor’s face, and if some of her variations on a theme don’t entirely convince, she’s never less than an engaging presence. She enters, or rather sidles into, the performance space like a primordial crone, accompanied by the glorious looping phrases of Gorecki’s Sorrowful Songs. It’s music she returns to in the finale, but we’ll come back to that.
Musical cues come thick and fast, from Björk to Judi Garland. Somewhere Over the Rainbow is actually more of a recurring joke, a cultural touchstone rendered as tedium personified. In fact, this idea of popular culture as cliché repeating, as a kind of spiritual entrapment, becomes the galvanising idea of this show. Even love itself seems tainted by the sense that we’ve seen it all before.
There are some truly beautiful moments, though. One in particular settles into the memory: for several minutes, the dancer’s own finger leads her around the stage with sublime inspiration, like a butterfly leading a lorry. It’s one of the few notes of hope that is struck, and all the more effective for it.
But back to that music by Gorecki. The Polish composer wrote that piece as a response to the Holocaust, and Snelling’s use suggests humanity’s inability to escape the horrors of its past, this habitual, inexorable return to our own annihilation. Forget Resnais; it’s like something out of Beckett, an Endgame for one.