Melbourne Fringe 2011

At the Sans Hotel

0 Comments 24 September 2011

Nicola Gunn takes inspiration from Cornelia Rau, the unlawfully detained schizophrenic German citizen and Australian permanent resident in At the Sans Hotel. The 2004-05 incident becomes the basis for Gunn’s more-personal analysis of psychic isolation in this highly original work.

At the Sans Hotel begins with a Nicola Gunn inhabiting a quirky French character, Sophie, who asks the audience to fill out invisible questionnaires (with real pencils, no less). Sophie then explains, somewhat manically, why Nicola Gunn was unable to make it to the night’s performance. What follows is almost indescribable; Gunn moves the audience through a series of dark, disturbing and often-hysterically funny visions of hopelessness, identity and theatre making itself. Gunn’s self-interrogation is constant, to the point where Sophie deconstructs the performance on a blackboard, explaining the themes, metaphors and the dramatic arc.

As the performance progresses the visions become increasingly darker and more intimate. Sophie’s uncomfortable silences allow the audience to truly feel her isolation. In one of the most hilariously awkward moments, she invites an audience member to play musical chairs with her. After tricking the unsuspecting male into losing the game, she viciously ridicules him as he waits to leave the stage. The dark humor in this work is entwined with moments of terrifying clarity. The audience is given glimpses into Sophie’s haunted psyche as she frantically interrogates herself and Gunn as her creator. Gunn’s ability to find humor in the darkest, most-disturbing places is one of the performance’s strongest features.

Attempting to fully explain or outline this performance is impossible. However, a potential audience member can expect a thoughtful interrogation of identity, consciousness and the nature of truth. Gunn endlessly questions what it means to know oneself and how immensely difficult life can be. Nicola Gunn’s performance is inspired in this highly imaginative and darkly humorous work. A must see.

Visit La Mama for booking information.

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