Despite its perplexing name, Gotterdammerung is an incredibly intimate piece of theatre from collective Arrive. Devise. Repeat. Staged in Annandale’s Off Broadway Festival Hub, the actual performance space is quite small. The audience are invited into a circle, offered tea and biscuits, and the actors begin to tell a story.
The show is devised from the actors’ own experiences and several interviews. In a word, it’s about death, and more specifically death in celebrity culture. It’s a pertinent theme for 2016, which has seen us lose so many beloved icons. Inspired by actor Victor Kalka’s reaction to the death of David Bowie, our reactions to celebrity death and the death of friends and family are juxtaposed, often unflatteringly. Kalka admits he was more affected by Bowie’s death than that of a family member who he discovered cold in her bed. We feel his guilt, yet we can’t help but sympathise.
In executing a tricky style of performance, actors Kalka, Ryan Devlin, Jacqueline Marriott and Patrick Howard are confident and competent. Howard is particularly wonderful, recounting with skill and brutal honesty the immaturity of his child-self. Marriott delivers some of the show’s most troubling moments. An interviewee forced to pen a press release about someone’s death ten minutes after the news was broken. Marriott herself, learning how to grieve for the first time after the death of her lifelong friend. “I didn’t know how to do this,” she tells us confidentially. “But it was okay. My body knew what to do.”
Parts of the show were performed with scripts onstage, either a stylistic move or the result of devising so close to performance. Either way it did not interfere with enjoyment of the performance, merely heightened the sense of intimacy. In another surprising move, Devlin conducts the tech for the show onstage. It’s peculiar to look down to see the cue list and watch him fiddle with the projector, but not at all unwelcome.
Gotterdammerung forces us to look inwards. It shows us our own self-absorption. It’s rare that we take the time to grapple with the reality of death. But armed with tea, biscuits and friendly performers, seeing this show is a good start.