Modern Australian

Stop the world, I want to get off! In Exit Strategies, one woman leaves and leaves again

  • Written by Sandra D'urso, Researcher, The Australian Centre, University of Melbourne

To perform an exit is not as simple as it sounds. In fact, exiting a situation can be almost impossible for some.

Exit Strategies is a new production by indie performer and theatre maker Mish Grigor in collaboration with Aphids co-director Lara Thoms and Eugenia Lim. It delves into the difficulty of exiting, by tracing the often banal yet agonising pathways – physical, emotional, or practical – one takes to leave.

The production raises the idea exits are also profoundly philosophical. What does it mean to exit? Is an exit the same as an arrival?

Grigor references the political dimension of the exit, having developed the script while attending an artist’s residency in the UK against a backdrop of relentless media coverage on the polarising debates around Brexit.

Conversely, exits are spaces of possibility. They are dark matter – a threshold inviting us to leap into the unknown. They are profoundly theatrical. A play is replete with exits. If it wasn’t, how would actors leave the theatre and return home?

In life, exits can be absurd, be opportunities for self reflection, or self-sabotage. They can be thrilling, funny, humiliating, and of course fatal.

Stop the world, I want to get off! In Exit Strategies, one woman leaves and leaves again The production uses green screen and projection - badly, but intentionally so. Unsplash, CC BY

Grigor exhausts all these variations in a 75-minute performance delivered as monologue. The production is deceptively simple. It is often understated in its delivery, yet incredibly rich in the way it casually weaves biographical narrative into larger concerns such as around colonialism and settler anxiety.

Despite these ruminations, the production is not obviously didactic or preachy. Its delivery plays at being casual while resolutely goading us with humour. Grigor drops familiar and cheesy references to 90s Australian television, politicians, cultural events, and – in more sobering moments – xenophobic and racist political developments.

Part of the pleasure in witnessing her repeated exit failures is that her performance is deliciously anti-heroic: this is no Iliad and Grigor is no Odysseus or Homer. Yet there is a wry allusion to long form poetry, which in performance translates as Grigor firing off instructions to the audience. She implores us to leave, to explore, invade, and conquer! It’s a sort of masculinist manifesto that goes wilfully off script.

We are told to imagine we are a child at Brisbane’s Expo 88. We are to take photos. Grigor instructs us to “print yourself out” and then “cut yourself out, just like you were there at Stonehendge”. She lists other famous sites, monuments, and curiosities we are to visit and by implication conquer, as though we are her.

The monologue feels autobiographical, confessional, all the while delivered in the imperative: “be a woman surviving late capitalism”.

The performance is peppered with visual gags executed in a floppy - almost deadpan – manner, which is stylistically antithetical to the heroic. Therein lies the humour of Exit Strategies as well as its feminist thesis: women artists (and feminist artists of every gender, race and class) have had no role to play in the sweeping narratives of dominant history. Moreover, this is not necessarily desirable. After all, who wants to feel at home among imperialists and those with a pathological need to dominate the earth and others?

In Exit Strategies there is no epic journey. Unlike the heroes of Greek tragedy Grigor can not unmoor herself from the parochial, the personal, the autobiographical, the inconsequential. We soon realise there is no clear redemptive arc (or exit) for this Australian artist. Nor is there a redemptive arc for us in the audience – especially those of us who are white settlers.

Stop the world, I want to get off! In Exit Strategies, one woman leaves and leaves again Grigor explores every type of exit. Unsplash, CC BY

There is a quality of pastiche at play here, threaded into the production’s form as well as its content and aesthetic. We jump from image to image, place to place, from childhood experiences, to historical events, to personal anecdotes about nightmarish benders on cocaine, wine, ice, only to cycle back again.

Green screen is used – badly but deliberately – so Grigor can interact in real time with herself. An even larger scrim curtain is unfurled and she appears as enormous and superimposed upon images of the Colosseum, the Taj Mahal, Statue of Liberty, Phillip Island’s Big Koala, Queensland’s Big Banana. You get the joke: upsize or exit the building!

If making it as an artist in Australia means becoming a cutout virtual version of yourself, easily transposed into the phallocentric narratives of historical progress – however awkward and naive the effect – then perhaps it’s not worth it.

Grigor shows us how she is failing at exiting the personal to enter history, the place where heroes and artistic geniuses are made. But the failure is ultimately welcomed, it is messy, ambivalent, yet somehow fabulous and productive.

Exit Strategies plays at Arts House until Sunday 17 November

Authors: Sandra D'urso, Researcher, The Australian Centre, University of Melbourne

Read more http://theconversation.com/stop-the-world-i-want-to-get-off-in-exit-strategies-one-woman-leaves-and-leaves-again-126270

NEWS

Morrison won't have a bar of public service intrusions on government's power

Scott Morrison has rejected or sidelined a number of recommendations from the long-awaited Thodey review.AAP/Paul BravenScott Morrison has rejected or sidelined a number of recommendations from the long-awaited Thodey review...

Michelle Grattan reflects on the year in politics

For their last video for the year, University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor Deep Saini and Michelle Grattan look backwards to the big issues which have shaped political discourse. They discuss the...

no wonder many Christian men today are having a masculinity crisis

How men saw God shaped how they saw themselves, and in turn, how they saw women. WikimediaThis article is part of our Gender and Christianity series.To understand contemporary Christian ideas...

Australia needs a national crisis plan, and not just for bushfires

Bushfires aren't the only catastrophic emergency Australia is likely to see. AAP Image/Mick TsikasCalls are growing for a national bushfire plan, including from former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who says...

Your Christmas shopping could harm or help the planet. Which will it be?

Many Australian consumers are concerned at the environmental impact of their shopping habits, especially at Christmas.AAPAustralian shoppers are set to spend $52.7 billion this Christmas. In the words of the...

Right-swipes and red flags – how young people negotiate sex and safety on dating apps

For many young people, app dating is just part of regular dating life.freestocks.org/UnsplashPopular commentary on dating apps often associates their use with “risky” sex, harassment and poor mental health. But...

Bougainville has voted to become a new country, but the journey to independence is not yet over

The Autonomous Region of Bougainville, a chain of islands that lie 959 kilometres northwest of Papua New Guinea’s capital, Port Moresby, has voted unequivocally for independence.The referendum saw 85% voter...

Friday essay: eco-disaster films in the 21st century

A scene from the 2017 film Geostorm: many societies have historically attempted to deal with collective trauma by replaying and restaging it in art.Warner Bros., Electric Entertainment, Rat Pac-Dune EntertainmentIt...

A new study shows an animal's lifespan is written in the DNA. For humans, it's 38 years

A genetic "clock" lets scientists estimate how long extinct creatures lived. Wooly mammoths could expect around 60 years.Australian MuseumHumans have a “natural” lifespan of around 38 years, according to a...

Australia's wafer-thin surplus rests on a mine disaster in Brazil

On Monday the Australian government will release the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO). This will – as required by the Charter of Budget Honesty – provide an update on...

these 5 charts show our democracy is safe in the hands of future voters

Almost 900 school kids, aged 12 to 17, were surveyed.ShutterstockA new, ongoing survey on how young Australians understand and imagine their democracy is already challenging long-held stereotypes. The survey –...

Private health insurance premiums should be based on age and health status

Policy changes have failed to stop young people dropping their private health insurance.ShutterstockPrivate health insurance has come under intense scrutiny in recent months, as it becomes clear health insurers are...

Popular articles from Modern Australian

Are Root Canals for Baby Teeth Necessary?Simple Yoga Exercises to Stretch and Strengthen7 Tips for Effective Spring Cleaning Stress Less - 5 Tips For Getting Through The Holiday Season On A Shoestring BudgetMesmerising Interior Design Trends for 2020 That Will Transform Your HomeTips for Sports BettingWhat Essentials to Consider to Avail Right Insurance Policy6 Essential Features You Should Consider Before Buying a Ski WatchNew or Used Car: How to Select The Best For Your FamilyChoosing a home builder in SydneyWhy regular visits to the eye doctor are important6 Budget Tips for a Student Studying Abroad in Australia5 Ways to Style Your Winter Wardrobe Essentials Into Versatile Outfits5 Brisbane Summer Classes Your Teens Can AttendSummer Gardening Tips