On Seeing Red: Missed opportunities, stuff and nonsense

The money shot: Gavin Krastin burns some cash. Photograph by John Hogg.

The money shot: Gavin Krastin burns some cash. Photograph by John Hogg.

Robyn Orlin could do it. So could Steven Cohen. And the Doobie Boobies under the direction of Mark Hawkins held articulate and convincing sway on this too. What is it that Gavin Krastin and Alan Parker lack in this discipline of rough burlesque and counter-dance? Is it a depth of ironic focus? Is it a lack of pathos? Are they too young? Or too pretty? Perhaps their sense of an evolved self-mocking gravitas is not fully formed. It’s difficult to pinpoint, but their latest work On Seeing Red, push all those audience buttons of disrespect and unresolved sloppiness, while it attempts to describe a framework of counter-seriousness and misses.

Seating an adult audience on the floor is always a bad starting point. It’s ill-mannered and unnecessary and it’s curious as to why the work could not have been contained in a regular seated space. But then, the room, filled with blow up palm trees and lots of shiny purple stuff, explodes with a drunken sense of burlesque introducing karaoke, hammering drag references home with a sense of tawdry glitter and a repetitiveness that makes the opening song of Cabaret into a mantra.

From this point, however, the work degenerates into a horrid and silly miasma of sanitary towels and plastic flowers, spilled custard, burnt money, wine and blood, amongst other things. The work grapples with the idea of light years and the conflation of time and energy in a ham-handed, unconvincing way, as it steps on the toes of territorialism, offering an unsatisfactorily tiny evocation of a work they created in 2012 called Cellardoor.

That work had memorable potential: sadly On Seeing Red doesn’t exploit its gaps, but rather tramples on them. When you read the programme notes after seeing the work and need to check again if this indeed is a description of the cheap and nasty bits of self-indulgence you’ve just seen, something’s amiss.

On Seeing Red doesn’t actually make you see red or feel real anger. Complete with a blow up plastic shark that turns into a frock of sorts, a jumping castle for toddlers that is made to evoke a burning down house, a bit of Piaf and a lot of too long transitions between the work’s components, it makes you physically uncomfortable and irritated. It’s like Steven Cohen denuded of his intent and content and on happy gas. Krastin and Parker’s audiences deserve better. And I’ll never get those 45 minutes of my life back.

  • On Seeing Red performed as part of the Dance Umbrella 2015 at the Barney Simon Theatre, Market Theatre complex on March 5 and 6. It features concept, direction and design by Gavin Krastin, with creation by Alan Parker and Krastin and sound design by Shaun Acker and was performed by Parker and Krastin.
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