PACT Centre for Emerging Artists
107 Railway Parade, Erskineville
Season 24-27 June 7pm
The dining table is a traditionally integral component of family life. It constitutes the heart of a family home drawing people together as a unit to enjoy a meal in each other’s company. This is especially true in France, where the culture emphasises the significance of food and the passing of hours sating appetites at mealtime. Thus, the dining table is an effective centrepiece for Cloé Fournier’s work Dining [Uns]-table, observing the quirks and nuances of family life. However this central emblem of serene family relationships may also be present in the deterioration of said relationships, demarcating turmoil and underlying hostilities amongst the people we should love the most. Dining [Uns]-table begins as a whimsical step into an abstruse world, and ultimately exposes the darkness that can corrupt familial relationships. Prepare to be brought into this fascinating interpretation of an aspect of life familiar to us all.
Fournier transforms the theatrical experience through interaction with the audience, with multiple roles to be filled. I was lucky enough to be given the role of Papy (an affectionate French name for Grandfather – I’ll take it as a compliment). She welcomed us into the home, ordered us around, and bestowed a personality upon us, through the role. The audience had a part to play in creating the spectacle, with Fournier’s watchful eye and carefully timed actions minding that the events unfurl as she sees fit. Each member responded with glee to her directions, delighted by the comedic situation they had been drawn into, and of which they were allowed to contribute. In simple actions of being seated and setting the table, Fournier managed to draw out the humour in the situation, breaking the process down into the simplest of actions. Barking orders to go faster, to put things in the right place, to pick things up, to move seats, the work verged on absurdism as simple tasks spiralled into a near state of chaos. Fournier worked to create widespread disarray across the performance space in a highly theatrical manner, only to enlist her audience counterparts on stage to clean it up. This fruitless process moves into the realm of the absurd with this artistic decision speaking to the cycle of hostility many experience with their family.
Fournier is a French-Australian artist and incorporated her own cultural perception of family into this work. She frequently creates an atmosphere of playful and childlike French jabber that resounds with the audience as a noise we are somewhat acquainted with, in spite of the disconnect experienced due to the language barrier. This is a cunning technique, shaping the piece to be incredibly personal to Fournier, as well as ensuring that the audience is always slightly unnerved by the proceedings taking place, shifting them from their comfort zone into a space where they are totally at the mercy of the work’s mood and workings.
Fournier labelled her work a dance-theatre piece, in the sense that strong physicalisation affected her every movement, as she incorporated physical movement to evoke emotion and represent familial life. Fournier would create this physical performance contorting her body, often with connection to commonplace domestic objects. This seemed to represent to me her strained and uncomfortable relationship with this aspect of her life, and in a broader sense, how many people may feel growing up. She displayed vast talent as a dancer, not only in the way she could move her body, but also in the story she could tell and emotions she could evoke in her movements.
Dining [Uns]-table is a truly fascinating work. It is interactive and it can be bizarre, but don’t let this prevent you from seeing the show. Fournier is a delight to watch and interact with, and sets forth to give you a highly enjoyable experience injected with ample humour. Sometimes it is the unconventional experiences that can teach and grow you the most, initiating extensive reflection on how this unorthodox interpretation changed your perception of a known experience. I think it’s time to destabilise that dining table of yours.