Presented by: Hamish Annan
Created by: Hamish Annan
Te Auaha, 22nd Feb 2023
Reviewed by: Kate Morris
Fringe is like a box of chocolates… you never know what you’re going to get. And that unpredictability, that suspense, that adventure, is what keeps audiences coming back. The pieces I find most exciting are the ones that are ever-shifting. The ones that can be influenced and shaped by the audience, as well as the delicate nuances and energies in the room. These shows are rare, but when you find them they are always interesting. All of that rings true with Access, created by Hamish Annan in collaboration with Katie Burson and Rob Byrne.
I’ve returned to Te Auaha for the third time in a week to soak up more of that delicious mystery. The audience is welcomed into a well-lit gallery space with sparse seating. At the centre are two vacant chairs inside an intimate performance space, tidily marked out with tape. On the wall are the instructions for engaging with the performer, Annan: “This performance includes: Aggression, Happiness, Grief, Lust, Disgust”. Audience members are instructed that one person at a time may sit with Annan and request an emotion. The prompted emotion is then performed for as long as the contributor remains seated.
Access is an exploration of authentic human emotion. Emotions of performer, prompter, and we the spectators. The audience becomes part of the work, with every empathic tilt of their head in response to grief, every eyebrow lift to lust, and each flinch from aggression. Each response is incredibly moving and visceral.
Annan is a valorous performer, poignantly expressing each emotion with breath and facial expressions, without physical contact or dialogue. The result is something truly guttural and deeply confronting. At its heart, this performance art is about human connection and emotional vulnerability. An unforgettable, alive, and incredibly unique experience, existing solely for the participants who happen to be there in that place in time – like a journal entry. And since every performance is different, what will your entry be?