In Floor Thirteen, presented by The Blue Room Theatre and Director Marshall Stay, we see a woman isolated and yet surrounded. Phoebe is stuck in a lift, ruminating on past events. Through this work, writer Elise Wilson questions a number of concepts including the malleability of our own narratives. We had a chat with Elise about the show.
Gutter Culture: We’re fascinated by the way Floor Thirteen looks at memory, identity, and imagination. Tell us about your inspiration for this piece.
Elise Wilson: The type of physical theatre and the form of the show have been influenced by the work of contemporary physical theatre and dance companies like Gecko Theatre from the UK, Chunky Move, and Canada’s Kidd Pivot, who recently toured Betroffenheit with Electric Company Theatre to Perth Festival in 2017.
GC: The protagonist, Phoebe, seems to be in turmoil. What drives her character?
EW: Phoebe is a character who struggles with accountability. She uses denial and blame-shifting tactics to preserve the ideal image of herself, which stems from a place of low self-esteem. Phoebe is also a confabulator, which is someone who distorts, fabricates and misinterprets memories without the conscious intention to deceive. When she tells stories from her life, she presents herself as the victim or the hero; never the villain.
GC: Tell us about the unconventional techniques you’ve implemented in this production.
EW: First, I should explain how we’ve configured the space. The audience is in the round so that they’re along the perimeter looking inwards and the elevator is in the centre of the space. While the dialogue comes from Phoebe inside the elevator, the space between the elevator and the audience is where her memories are manifested by the other performers using movement. So, instead of the choreography aligning with music, their physical actions are choreographed to Phoebe’s words. In terms of the show’s technical capabilities, we’ve been experimenting with projection mapping. We’re using two projectors at opposite diagonals to wrap projections around the elevator and apply visual effects to it.
GC: What has been most rewarding about seeing this work come together?
EW: I was fortunate enough to spend lots of time in the rehearsal room watching the work come together. It’s been rewarding to see performers take on the characters as their own and portray them in ways I hadn’t imagined. Even though I wrote the script, they still give me new moments of delight. It’s great seeing the script being transformed into something different; something bigger than I had previously imagined.
GC: Tell us about the cast and how you’ve built this production to portray Phoebe’s first person point of view.
EW: Our cast is made up of five performers. Phoebe, played by Kylie Bywaters, spends the entire show trapped inside the elevator, and performs—what you might cal—more conventional realistic acting. Then, the remaining performers, Tamara Creasey, Courtney Henri, Christopher Moro and Jordan Valentini, physically re-enact her memories in the space surrounding the elevator. They take on a more heightened performance style with their movements to reflect exaggerations in Phoebe’s memories. Every story in the show comes from Phoebe’s mind; her subjective—yet perhaps delusional—experience. Although most people consider their own point of view to be more complete, valid and important than another’s viewpoint (according to some research I found), Phoebe’s ego resists her from coming to terms with the fact that her recollection of perceived events is fallible.
GC: What do you hope audiences will take from Floor Thirteen?
EW: To quote one of our performers, I hope that they experience a “visual orgasm”. This work is loud, bold and in-your-face. I hope they are curious to see the mystery unfold, and maybe even leave the show with a slightly more critical perspective on their own memories.
GC: Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?
EW: When you watch Floor Thirteen, prepare to question everything. What’s real and what’s imaginary; how can you trust that anything Phoebe says is true?
Floor Thirteen runs until 13 July. Get tickets here.