We are all shaped by Invisible Things, be they of our own making, our life experiences or the broader structures of society. Most of the time, we are oblivious to these forces, but they mould and guide our lives and influence how we interpret the world around us. If we are able to unravel these invisible things, we can begin to understand our true nature and how to master our destinies. This is not an easy journey. It is one of contemplation, reflection, struggle and set-back. It is a battle many of us don’t win, or even begin.
Through Invisible Things, Alex Mizzen takes us on a deeply personal journey into her psyche. Derived after reviewing 17 years of journals after a major injury, this show takes the viewer into Alex’s inner world and explores the unspoken and unseen through circus and dance theatre. Nadia and Adam had the opportunity to see the show separately over the weekend of the 19th and 20th of May and were excited to unpack it together.
Adam: So, I have to make a confession, I’m a bit of an Alex Mizzan fanboy – both as a teacher and a performer, so I was pretty excited to see this show. Especially since this was her first full length show after returning from injury. I probably would have paid to see her make balloon animals! How about you Nadia?
Nadia: Alex is a consummate artist, of the highest order. It’s not hard to be a fanboy! I had high expectations and they were not disappointed. This is a spectacular new work, quite, quite original and unlike anything I have seen in recent years, if ever.
Adam: One thing I love about Alex’s work in general is her attention to detail and this work showcases this in every way. Every part of the show was obviously intricately planned out – from the choreography and set design to the costuming and soundscape. From the beginning, the audience is immediately transported inside piece as they enter the dimly lit Vulcana Studio Space.
Our first sight of Alex is lost in thought, writing invisible words on the plastic walls of what seems like a prison cell in the centre of the room. As she moves around the cell, she disappears from view, forcing the audience to move around the space if they want to keep her in sight. From my first view of her, Alex completely immersed me into her world and didn’t let me go until the final applause when I could finally take a breath.
Nadia: Some beautiful shapes and scenes captured our attention, I agree Adam, from the very first moment, the first image of a woman shrouded in mist, I was intrigued. Each new change of space, pace, orientation, was fresh and dynamic.
Adam: For me, Invisible Things showcases all that is possible with New Circus – that circus can be used as a modality for telling complex and rich stories, not just for tricks and applause. Through intricately planned choreography and improvisation, Alex creates a world that is both deeply engaging and breathtaking to watch.
She commands the audience’s attention throughout, never once breaking character. Each piece in the show unveils a new aspect of Alex’s battle against the invisible things of life in surprising and intricate ways. All of her movements are imbued with a character and beauty that take the audience with her on her journey and add to the narrative.
She uses being trapped in a sling, punished by a skipping rope or balancing on boxes and canes, mixed with her considerable dance expertise, to deconstruct and tear apart both herself and the cage she is trapped in. She makes us her witness and dares us to look away as she attempts to escape the invisible things that have trapped her. And she forces us to think about how much invisible forces define our lives and how much it would take us to challenge the power they have over us and to live up to Alex’s example. And she does it all through circus. Yep, you heard that right!
Nadia: Very much so, that other super topical trend for genre-fusion, merging dance, theatre and circus; it’s done in an exemplary manner. People are curious about the capacity for physical expression. Dance has seen a massive resurgence in recent years, in pop culture and on the fringes. And the physical story-telling is interesting to diverse audiences. Two members of the audience on Sunday were hearing impaired; both of them expressed to me how incredible the show was. They were not stymied by the lack of a script or translator, as it was her physical self that told the story.
Adam: Massive kudos have to be given to the whole team who have helped Alex to pull this show together. Alex was ably assisted by some of Brisbane’s finest creatives, including Dramaturg Kristian Šantić, Collaborating Artist and Technical Designer Michael Maggs and Sound Designer Anna Whitaker. Each of them have brought something beautiful and surprising that adds depth to the piece. Anna’s sound design particularly captivates, she works sounds from the performance into the soundscape that builds the perfect atmosphere for the show.
Nadia: I’m pretty much in awe of this team, I have seen Kristian’s work before in particular, and he is an incredible dancer and choreographer, it’s pretty much a dream team, I would say.
Adam: I’m always interested to see how Brisbane audiences engage with non-traditional work. On the night I went, some people just sat in the one place and didn’t move, even when the set threatened to barrel them over. I think many are still learning about ways to respond to and interact with a piece like this and it’s great to see work that challenges the traditional passive role of the audience. While it was not immersive per se, audience members who follow Alex and move around the set will definitely gain more from Invisible Things.
Nadia: Oh gosh, the same thing happened on the night I went. I totally wanted her to keep pushing it until they were forced to move! People are quire rightly bored with the whole trend for ‘immersive theatre’, but this was different. The encased cube, the nature of the performance space, meant that the intrusion into audience space happened without breaking the fourth wall, which was most unusual.
Adam: Through Invisible Things, Alex Mizzen gives all of herself both physically and emotionally and the audience, like her, is spent by the show’s end. We all wanted her to escape her prison on our behalf and show us what is possible when you uncover and dissolve the invisible things that bind us. For Alex, what is possible is a show like this one and we’re all the better for it. Imagine what you could do if you were able to escape your invisible things?
Nadia: I am so excited by this new production, and such early days. From this first scintillating iteration we are going to see a powerhouse of a show develop.
Invisible Things shows at the Stores Building, The Powerhouse, from 12 – 27 May 2018 as part of Anywhere Theatre Festival
Adam Wood attended Invisible Things on 19 May and Nadia Jade on 20 May
Performer and Creator | Alex Mizzen
Collaborating Artist and Technical Design | Micheal Maggs
Dramaturg | Kristian Šantić
Sound | Anna Whitaker
Set Design / Build | Zen Spokes
With thanks to Vulcana Women’s Circus and Flipside Circus