-by Grace Flanagan
(Photo credit: Adam Thomas)
Canberra Museum and Gallery
Just after midnight on last Sunday morning,
A new evening social occurrence was dawning,
Across from the crowds outside of Mooseheads,
An audience listened, all warm in their beds.
The Night Fort, curated by the You Are Here festival producers, is a community sleepover held in Canberra Museum and Art Gallery. Unlike gigs that leave an audience standing for hours, shifting weight between aching feet, The Night Fort offers the highest comfort, encouraging people to slob out and indulge in soft furnishings. As the show started, the audience settled among tents seemingly made from oversized clothes horses draped with sheets. Combined with the blankets and pillows strewn over the floor, CMAG had the feel of a childhood lounge-room on a wet June day.
Opening the night was Finnigan and Brother. Like others on the night, they combined elements of spoken work with sound-scapes; their confronting story transformed a graphic phrase from mere repetition to ruminating lyric. The listener’s mind wandered and absorbed their poems, lost in thought and residual rhythm.
Performances took place in a central tent, somewhat isolated from the ‘sleepers’. As unusual as it was to not view the acts, but very much experience them, this set up created an impressionable audience, who were able to experience the work in its purity. The first few acts were accompanied by Danny Wild’s improvised projections of delayed live footage played over kaleidoscopic images.
Maitland Schnaars and Thomas Day delivered their self-absorbed piece with aggression and volume. Clichés littered their monologue, but the imagery and repetition of ‘blood, mud, salt,’ was effective and sat thick on the listener’s tongue. Emma Gibson followed, spinning a bedtime story of love, betrayal and conjoined twins. Engaging her audience with a circus of characters, bodies slept while minds were pulled through mermaid tanks, tree houses and gypsy vans, demonstrating a sophisticated command of a juvenile narrative format.
Beau Anthony Deuwaarder then gave an abstract, strangely scientific monologue presented in several ‘plateaus’. The gravity of the piece, however, could not be appreciated by a foyer of under-30s at 3am on a Sunday. It was at this point in the evening that reality and dreams seemed to merge as sleepers fluttered in and out of consciousness. Just before 4am, Shoeb Ahmad’s spacey synth took over and lulled the foyer into slumber.
All performers exhibited outstanding delivery. Most acts were widely accessible, exploring themes of identity, nation, mortality and isolation, although some were far from conducive to sleep. Some sleepers though, proved resistant to disruptive swells in music, their snores calling through the gallery. The Night Fort had an incredible atmosphere, created equally by aesthetic, performance and company present.
Grace Flanagan is an undergraduate student at ANU who traditionally pens short-fiction. She’s been grabbed by an octopus and found $50 in the ocean. Her life’s goal is to perform a handstand unassisted.