Photograph by Reinhardt.
Hurrah Hurrah presents the World Premiere of ROOMBA NATION, at The Old 505 Theatre, Eliza St. Newtown. July 4 - 21.
ROOMBA NATION is a new Australian work from the company Hurrah Hurrah, led by Alison Bennett.
Roomba relates to a Roomba Robotic vacuum cleaner - built by the company, iRobot. This performance work has three Roomba robots that have been cast in a role sometime in the near future in assisting humans in medical research. Doctor Uta Haagen Dazs (Kate Walder), assisted by a human Nursie, Seigret (Nick O'Regan), and the Roomba robots are pursuing, obsessively, the latest technological means to 'prove' the Doctor's theoretical paper to cure the latest big disease.
Pippa (Alison Bennett) in search for aid - a cure - for her 'big disease' after an on-line search, has signed herself up, unconditionally, to the Haagen Dazs treatment with all its stages to find that respite, that nirvana. She, consistently, refuses to sit on the ball of 'Acceptance' which Nursie, the last of the human carers, being surrounded by the robotic Roombas, has offered her, and with her revolutionary fist in the air, determinedly, undergoes treatment that seems to sack her health with their side-effects, and takes her to the pleasant delusions of being the ballet Sugar Plum Fairy and, alternatively, the front row Rugby figure she had always, alternatively, wanted to be. The bloody-blinded Doctor ignores the deterioration of her patient until a report reveals that the genome profile of Pippa indicates that she will not survive Stage Seven of the hypothesis of her Research paper, but elects, still, to go ahead any way.
This serious ethical debate of the research practices of modern medicine to find the cure for the next 'big disease' on humans (let alone animals), and the de-humanisation of the modern approach to the exclusion of the empathetic attention of the human Nurse over the growing (possible) intrusion of the Roomba Robot as the primary carers, is told with the unique humour and concern of Hurrah Hurrah. The physical stylisations and manipulation of image is that of artists working beside language/text accompanied with visual physical skills of a quirky, disarming kind. There is much whimsical comedy here counter-balancing a serious exposure of a possible future.
The exaggerated enthusiasms of the Research Doctor, expressed with energetic super-pumping 'dances' from Ms Walder are counter-poised beside the wearying pedantic care of Nursie, deliciously inhabited vocally and physically by Mr O'Regan, while Ms Bennett as trusting, hopeful Pippa registers a truly moving pathos as the disintegrating patient, in a performance of observed knowledge that has the thrusts of a reality that strike deep and truthfully. All three have demarcated their 'functions' with clear preciseness. The robot Roombas are a hapless distraction rather than a keen asset to the storytelling - we get it, but they are kind of 'cute' in impact - not exactly of the Doctor Who Dalek villains that they could have been!
Quoted in the program notes is the Philosopher, Hans Jonas, from his book: The Imperative of Responsibility: In search of an ethics for the technological age. - (1979):
Never must the essence of a man as a whole be made a stake in the hazards of action.Pippa and her essence are the stakes for the action of Doctor Haagen Dazs.
ROOMBA NATION, in a clinical surround of blue laced curtains, on a white floor with black algebraic formula (Set Design, Duncan Maurice), in a lighting state of cold white and blues (Lighting Design, Alex Torney), and minimal clinical dress of white with blue trimmings or plastic over-coats and blue gloves and metallic instruments, supported by a rather feint but 'chilling' Sound Design (Tegan Nicholls) - Tchaikovsky's Sugar Plum music from his ballet score for THE NUT CRACKER, never sounded so ominous before - and, although, still in a development stage, is worth catching. Never maudlin, curiously comic, and, yet, very moving. The performers are extremely mesmerising in their ensemble and individual offerings.
In the program there is a dedication: This show is dedicated to all the people that have ever wished a technological miracle would arrive to save someone they love X.
That may account for the heartfastedness affect of ROOMBA NATION - This work has bubbled up from a yearning and experienced knowledge of a personal aspirational need in the face of death.