It is dark. And quiet. And unless someone does something about it, it’ll stay that way.
Admittedly, I don’t leave my seat on the Substation Theatre floor for the duration of the piece. The transcripts of Poon’s interviews with People Living with HIV (PLHIV) on the wall above my head are numbered 72 and 73. Poon says to read them in order. I wait, thinking I’ll read them both when it gets to me.
The work’s objectives are crystal clear and Poon is thoughtful in every way possible. The rigidity with which he performs the opening sequence and gives instructions to the audience, the way he’s dressed all in white and completely covered – this is our society’s methodical, precautionary approach to PLHIV. But are we forgetting they are P(eople) afterall?
The lights go out. It takes a while for the audience to get the ball rolling. C’mon, c’mon.
A voice rings out, and the sound, which signifies a presence, is unspeakably (no pun intended) comforting. Stories to make one smile, cry, ponder are told – one test not to be passed, one form of medication, one change of perspective.
We only get to about transcipt 30, I think. I lose count.
(un)it: HD85828 | in.ViSiBLE is as much about PLHIV as it is about the people around them. Us. The darkness becomes a shroud of safety, an anonymity that is common ground. It almost makes us look harder to see who, but in our futility we realise it doesn’t matter.
At the end, questions of “Will you dance with me?” are met almost immediately with emphatic positive replies. We’ve already been transformed through the experience. To Adele’s lush voice, the Substation Theatre becomes a ballroom, and I can make out embracing, rotating couples on the floor.
Poon calls (un)it: HD85828 | in.ViSiBLE a performance, an installation and an experiment. The results aren’t quantifiable, and I’m not sure success is a desired outcome (if it can be defined in this instance, that is).
So my parting words, taken from Samuel Beckett: Try again. Fail again. Fail better.