The room, or “pod”, that we first enter is not so much a setting as a blank slate against which the images in the iPad are cast, a perfectly white box with only the barest bedroom essential – a bed. Initially, the footage on the iPad matches what we see around us, austere white, but as the “performance” progresses the small screen gradually develops the space, furnishing and populating.
Like the room, the story is small, and there’s satisfying harmony of intention between the two. It’s like a portrait miniature.
There are children in the room. They have a mother who dies. She melts into a kind of biscuit dough. The children take the dough and disappear into a dreamy forest where a surrogate mother helps them kneed and cook the dough, producing a delicious biscuit-mother. Thus the title, alma mater, nourishing mother.
The small whimsy of this story allow Fish & Game to make the integration of theatre, cinema and installation art with more confidence. We never feel like they’re reaching for an effect which is beyond the novelty of the iPad technology. Their focus is intimacy and that at least is delivered.
The idea at first is to match up the footage on the iPad with the direction you’re facing in the room, to make believe, that is, that the iPad is actually a kind of magical camera. There is a fun gaming-type quality in trying to match your movement of the iPad in your field of vision to the footage. But this sense of participation does gradually wain as the cinematic effects take over. The smash cuts in particular spoil any sense of ownership we may have over the POV in the iPad. By the end I had given up swishing the iPad around and was just sitting on the bed watching the screen. Sitting alone in a bedroom watching an iPad? There's definitely still some room here to develop the "theatrical" site of the event.
This is another interesting foray into the realm of experimental theatre from Arts House and is a promising though limited example of what hi-tech individualised performance art might be. At $5 for a twenty minutes immersion, it’s well worth a look.
Features an original score by John De Simone performed by experimental octet Ensemble Thing, and cinematography from award-winning artist Anna Chaney.