Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Shannon Yee, 'Reassembled, Slightly Askew': On the Brain

 Stunning audio art recreates an artist's intimate story of survival. 

The Complex, Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival
Sep 13-24

A quick review of Reassembled, Slightly Askew by Shannon Yee coming up just as I go to town for toothpaste ...

It makes sense that an artist reeling from trauma will try give it shape in their work. Look to the paintings of Frida Kahlo or the performance art of Olwen Fouéré. Eight years ago, Northern Ireland-based playwright Shannon Yee suffered an acquired brain injury that almost took her life. Her new audio-based artwork is an autobiographic account of the journey from sickness to recovery.

It starts the same way as a hospital trip: by filling out a form. A nurse then instructs you to lie on a bed and put on headphones and eye mask. 

The potential of binaural technology (recording sound through microphones placed in the ears) in performance continues to excite (see Complicite’s The Encounter). Paul Stapleton’s sonic design is truly transporting, conjuring a three-dimensional soundscape effectively simulating the movement of bodies. Guided by Steve Prickett’s choreography (something you don’t often see credited in audio art), details convincingly drift in and out, making you swear that doctors and nurses brush past your ear. 

Loved ones and professionals edge in and out between unsettling effects such as rattling metal and crackling buzz, as Yee brings us on the tough road to rehabilitation. From cursing the loss of feeling in her left side to groaning over steps taken in physiotherapy, the experience is intimate and sensitively mapped by director Anna Newell and dramaturg Hanna Slättne.  

The greatest understanding bestowed to the listener is that emotional trauma, the alienation felt by being disabled while reintegrating into the world. For those who are stirred, there is a short documentary about the creative process shown afterwards. 

What did everybody else think?  

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