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ArtsLab: Body of Work

ArtsLab: Body of Work
Shopfront Arts Co-op
Creative Director: Natalie Rose
107 Projects, Redfern
March 22 – April 2, 2023

Shopfront’s very creative director Natalie Rose’s pet passion, ArtsLab, is now a twice-yearly production. ArtsLab is unique in giving young artists the opportunity to develop a creative idea with the guidance of an industry mentor and have it presented in a professional setting. Rose’s first presentation for 2023, Body of Work, brings together three theatre pieces and two gallery works which demonstrate the programme’s creativity and breadth of achievement.

The gallery works are diverse and interesting interrogating and encouraging shared experience. Do androids dream of silicone binders (artist, Jenna Lewis, mentor, Claire Britton) invites the viewer to sink their wearied bodies into a most appealing pile of large soft cushions for a mutual rest-in, while three interconnected works When I think of us it sounds like (Rachel Seeto and Kaylee Rankin/Roslyn Oades) explore the comfort – or not – of the memories of one day in the lives of its creators through audio and video. Peep is the most intriguing of this triad, enacting the frustration of fragmented and blurred memories.

The theatre program kicks off with Quadrants (Flynn Mapplebeck/Tom Walker) an entertaining monologue and on being alone and/or lonely. Inspired by the recent experiences of lockdown when people were thrown on their own resources, Mapplebeck examines his own apparent preference for being alone with the aid of some really mind-boggling charts.  In measuring the length of time he can spend with people he likes, people he dislikes and new people, and the way the presence of dogs (especially huskies) or alcohol or dogs and alcohol can affect his tolerance of others, Mappledeck provokes not only hilarity but also some self-questioning in his audience.

Under the Influence (Amelia Gilday and Ana Fenner/Carlos Gomes), a monologue performed by Ana Fenner, and accompanied by absorbing background imagery, gives insight into how it feels to be refused recognition as a woman. The opening in which Fenner clumsily applies makeup to the accompaniment of an instructional video given by a perfectly made-up woman, provokes interesting questions straight away. A woman performing women but whose concept of women are they performing? Fenner is an engaging performer, enlisting the audience’s sympathy in her anguished reflection on social perception and boosting collective energy in a concluding celebratory dance.

Also concerned with body image, Zest (Mina Bradshaw/Amrita Hepi) takes a satirical look at the wellness industry which creates perceived unwellness in order to provide treatment. The cast perform their roles well, each of them chosen by the disembodied Zest for their feelings of inadequacy making them easy to manipulate. Jessica Melchert shines as a mother-figure ridden with guilt about her inability to manage her own children, and each character, Jahan (Michael Ho), Kyle (Bailey Tanks) and Sarah (Sophie Florence Ward), brings understanding

to a particular insecurity and shamefulness. The outcome of putting this group together can’t be revealed nor can the clever and biting conclusion however special praise should go to the inventive staging of the nightly sleep and the metaphor implicit in the décor.

Once again, ArtsLab has brought some thoughtful, provocative, relevant and imaginative work to 107 Projects. The young artists presented in Body of Works have worked hard to bring their ideas to fruition and Rose’s dedication to ArtsLab is of immense importance in nurturing and sustaining the arts into the future.

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