It’s Dark Outside examines human nature and our desire to seek what is beyond us – always in the pursuit of something. It explores the fragility of human life and the lack of control we have over the course of our existence. This is done through the case study of Alzheimer’s disease with specific research having been conducted into the curious phenomena of Sundowner’s Syndrome. Sundowner’s Syndrome is a medical term for this desire, showing how, when our faculties begin to escape us, we attempt to escape our familiar environment. We begin to wander and with this comes the disintegration of relationships and former personality traits, and the gradual regression to a primal state. Once civilized and sophisticated people are reduced to a simple body that is fuelled by animalistic instinct and an insatiable desire for a realm beyond our own.
Created and performed by Arielle Gray, Tim Watts and Chris Isaacs, the trio devised a brief but captivating piece using puppetry, multimedia effects and music composed by WAAPA graduate, Rachel Dease. A wise decision to avoid dialogue, the piece functioned in its own world of powerful imagery and sounds.
Despite the complexity of the subject matter, this performance was one of ease and sincerity. The simplicity of the images the trio constructed had symbolic value that much of the audience was able to connect with. The images were able to capture the very essence of existence, the dichotomous concepts of simplicity and complexity that plague our lives. In a state of constant flux, these concepts are applicable to every individual’s life, manifested in many different forms. In this performance, the chase for a certain something is put in perspective – as we are able to step outside the natural course of existence and experience another’s life.
The details in the mask were perfect – down to the very last wrinkle. But the details of old age were expressed through the performers’ movement and engagement with the minimal set and props. The puppetry itself was splendid and the manipulation of the puffs of memory, the transformation of objects to life, the comic intertwined with the tragic, all succeeded in taking its audience into the conceptual world of a lost reality.
The transitions from the multimedia screen to the live puppetry were seamless and cleverly executed. The images created by the performers were relayed to the screen and fluidly reversed, smoothly passing between the two mediums. The fluidity of the piece was its strength. But this fluidity should largely be attributed to the sensitive soundtrack of the piece. The music was an integral part of the performance’s success. Inspired by the spaghetti western setting, the music was soft and subtle at times – helping to project the lonely and heartbreaking emotions onto the puppet’s lifeless face – and at others it was bold and breathed life into an otherwise dull scene.
As people suffering from Alzheimer’s often regress to a child like state, the creators endeavoured to capture this playful and humorous quality – balancing out the dark subject matter with simple gags, guaranteed to make the audience laugh. But there was no saving the emotional outpour. As elderly couples either side of me clutched each others’ hands and held back tears, younger audience members bawled behind me. This piece was intended for everyone and hence resonated with everyone. For the victims and their families, those who know the feeling of slowly losing someone and those who don’t. For all those who’ve ever felt the yearning for something beyond the here and now. This show is for everybody.