BOOK OF EXODUS PART 1 - MELBOURNE
BOOK OF EXODUS PART 1, Fraught Outfit & Theatre Works St Kilda, 1-18 June 2017. Photography by Pia Johnson of Sol Feldman
Co-created by Adena Jacobs and Aaron Orzech and directed by Jacobs, Book of Exodus Part 1 is a tricky piece of theatre. It is the third part of the “innocence trilogy”, following On the Bodily Education of Young Girls and The Bacchae.
As we took our seats I didn’t pay too much attention to the performance space. When the lights came up I realised the scrim had fallen kabuki-like
in the black out and we were presented with a sea of polystyrene, a great white wall, stillness, and silence that stretched for minutes. I have always found it interesting to see how an audience reacts to silence; I find it meditative and I wait with expectation as to what might befall; but for some it is obviously tough, they become restless, they cough, they whisper. Perhaps it says more about how instant and noisy life is today that silence disturbs.
Meanwhile, we stared in silence at the rubble. Then a small hand started to poke through, a child’s hand; then more movement and the body belonging to the hand emerged and belonged to an old woman. Then another body emerged, this time an old man – Moses. They were obviously children but the old lady/man masks were unsettling, their shorts and white singlets reinforcing how young they were.
They moved through the rubble finding objects and clothes, creating tableaux depicting scenes, painting wounds on their arms they took us on a biblical journey of Moses and Aaron.
At one stage Moses reads without emotion or comment passages concerning the final Plague visited upon Egypt by Yahweh – the murder of all Egyptian first-borns and the Angel of Death’s “Passover” sparing of the Israelites’ offspring.
The set and costume design was evocative (Kate Davis) and the lighting (Emma Valente) and sound design (Max Lyandvert) equally powerful. Jacobs moves the children around the set well, (The performances are shared - Sol Feldman, Tarana Verma, Ezra Justin and Malik Keegan), they know where to go and what to do but it’s not acting, it’s moving from one area to another telling a story without words. Every now and again I saw them breaking into an innocent smile which brought me back to the fact that they are so young; this unsettled me, they weren’t actors and I felt like a voyeur. The show runs just shy of 60 minutes.
Exodus Part 2 will be presented in October.