This wordless movement and contemporary dance show is a stark void of hope; an emotional roller coaster of despair. The narrative of (un)written* (un)heard traverses a handful of recovered and recorded written accounts of the life of Dorothy Lawrence. I have to admit that I had never heard of this incredible woman before the show; she was a nineteen-year-old English journalist who disguised herself as a man so that she could get to the front line of World War I (WWI), where she spent ten days – before becoming ill.
Lighting, music, and movement were well utilised, and the era was brought to life as we bore witness to the struggles and despair of war. Lawrence’s solider accomplices were ghostly and realistically illuminated through the clever use of solider jackets. The outfits, which if not from the period, were a very close representation, and beautiful works of art in themselves.
The opening scenes of madness were so desolate and isolating that one couldn’t help but feel trapped, particularly in the intimate staging at the Old Girls School. It was as if the ghosts of the past channelled their loss and despair through the three performers.
Everyone moved gracefully between their characters and scenes, each bringing their unique dynamic movements to best represent events from Dorothy’s life. The choreography was beautifully crafted, with pushing and pulling movements constantly vying for our attention.
On her journey, Dorothy was interrogated and censored, depicted through a tug-of-war between the characters. WWI torch lamps were well utilised to signify this interrogation.
The story circled back on itself, opening with her institutionalisation in a psychiatric hospital. It was from this facility that we started to experience her journey, as she writhed on the floor, her ticks becoming more incessant. Her fervent scratching was so maddening, I found myself itching in sympathy. After traversing scenes from her life, real and imagined, the show concluded with her return to institutionalisation.
The audience was also provided with a brief, written introduction to the story before the show. In all honesty, I got a little lost trying to match these scenes with those that were presented on the stage.
It was hard not to be mortified that Dorothy’s story has been ignored and forgotten by the writers of history. I am in awe of the talent that (un)buried and (re)told this remarkable real story. However, this performance left me confused, so unfortunately, I didn’t feel like I got to know Dorothy Lawrence any more deeply than the written fragments I was provided.
(un)written * (un) heard runs until the 9th of February at Biology at the Girls School. Tickets are $25 and you can get them here.
(un)written * (un) heard is produced by Ellandar Productions and 45North.
4 feminists ghosts out of 5.
Elaine Hanlon // @elainehanlon
Elaine wonders how many more female heroines are unknown to us and forgotten in our history books.
Image courtesy of FRINGE WORLD Festival
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Other Festivals have demonstrated that ethical sources of funding are possible – you can read more, and sign the petition, here: https://www.change.org/p/fringeworld-side-with-the-climate-and-drop-woodside-petroleum // #fossilfreefringe #fossilfreearts // Arts and Cultural Workers for Climate Action