There is always an aspect of live theatre that can never be explained after the fact. The connection between audience and performer is tangible in person, but when you try to describe it to friends and whānau you end up with a sentence like “I can’t really remember the specifics but it was really good, you should go and see it!”
Such is the case with In 200 Minds, performed and choreographed by Katie Shaw. I entered the theatre with a feeling of anticipation, openness, and intrigue. I left feeling just as intrigued, with a bit of introspection and confusion thrown in the mix as well.
The stage was set with a single lamp as well as a softly glowing red box, with a stone atop, covered in walnuts, lemons, and apples. Katie Shaw entered, their costume also adorned with walnuts, lemons, apples. These three consumables featured heavily in the hour that followed, and I was constantly asking myself—“why walnuts, lemons, apples?” The question for me was never really answered—hence the intrigue and confusion.
Shaw opened the show in near darkness with jittery and minimal movements. They repeated the movements and expanded on them, changing the action slightly on each repetition. It reminded me of Steve Reich’s Piano Phase—the same idea repeated over and over, overlapping, on top of itself, getting larger until it circles back on itself and becomes whole again. A lot of the choreography in the show seemed similar in a way to minimalist music of the twentieth century, which was exciting for me as a musician who knows nothing about dance. This association reminded me that you can find art in any art form, even if it may not be the art that the creator or performer intended you to find.
This idea keeps coming back to me as I search for meaning in Shaw’s movements. One of my favourite parts of any live performance is the idea of intention vs. interpretation; I wondered how Shaw was feeling during the performance, and how they thought the audience might be feeling. In this instance, there were large parts of the show that I did not ‘understand’—we watched Shaw bite into and masticate an apple for what felt like a full two minutes. We watched them grind walnuts and lemons on the stone, use their elbow as a lemon press, and squeeze lemon juice into their eyes. I wonder what Shaw was trying to tell us with these perplexing actions and if they wanted to create a sense of intensity and unease. Then again, perhaps there is no meaning behind these actions at all, as in the description of the show we are told, “Watch them try to carry the weight of the world. Watch them fuck it up. Watch them fail miserably. Watch them. They just want to be seen.”
In 200 Minds was an extremely interesting show and it was a very intimate and intense experience. Katie Shaw’s choreography and performance were passionate and frenzied and you would have a hard time not paying attention to them—I think, in a way, this means intention and interpretation were (perhaps rarely) aligned.
Featured image by Lulu Qiu courtesy of Katie Shaw and Basement Theatre.