Disagreeable object — a work devised and performed by Michelle Heaven

In This Article

It all happened in a little space in South Melbourne. The darkness on entering the theatre was disorienting, even destabilising; but it didn’t quite prepare you for what came next.

One could agree that what was revealed by the subdued lighting was a ‘domestic, dreamlike room’ and that we, as audience, were secret collaborators, privileged to see through the wall facing us: but wait, it is inhabited by a strange ungainly creature; a kind of nightmarish Alice trapped in a simulacrum of the White Rabbit’s house.

The face of this creature is heavy, craggy, shadowed with a malign intent. Its hair is wild, unkempt, threatening chaos. Its movements are ungainly, awkward, lumbering. A tiny puppet creature outside the house is somehow connected to this scenario, rather like the White Rabbit’s friends waiting for Bill, the Lizard, to come sailing out of the chimney.

We are a polite audience; we also wait. The hulking creature trapped in the house continues its unfathomable activities. Where is Michelle? Isn’t this her performance?

Finally we get it. This great graceless thing is Michelle. The scale and dimensions of the odd little room are such that we have all been trapped by a clever illusion. Slowly the giant becomes Michelle. She is dressed in a baggy tracksuit, her hair is its normal unfettered curliness, her face, freed of the shadows created by clever lighting is its usual delicate oval.

But now, she is even madder than the gross creature that preceded her. She proceeds, manically, to create a small doll from handkerchief-sized squares of cloth. It is no sooner made than it is savagely and competently squashed—or did it just disintegrate?—my memory does not serve me well with these details.

A tiny chair and an invisible support are now pressed into the service of creating further illusions. By now restored to normal dimensions, Michelle is suspended inside the space of the tiny house with her feet just off the floor. She tilts, magically, at odd angles: the chair is sustained in mid-wall by some reversal of gravity.

Disagreeable Object, 2003. Courtesy Michelle Heaven.
Photo: Carlo Golin

With tiny characters now appearing on the roof and other strange goings-on outside the little house, the piece escalates in weirdness. Glove puppets, a subtle command of movement and a persuasive presence are some of the elements that continue to surprise and delight as the piece unfolds. Michelle Heaven’s own imaginative mind is at work again.

The small, created world inside the theatre is composed of simple elements used with great subtlety and skill. The detail in the workings out of scale and relationship create a compelling theatrical experience, which, for this writer, revived childhood memories and imaginings of secret worlds and small hidden mysteries. It is all evoked by imagination, skill and wonder.

In appreciation. Thank you Michelle.

Movement and imagery that entice ‘the curious’ inspire me as a creator; movement captured by chance or default; movement that maintains a sense of mystery. Subtlety and simplicity of ideas inform much of my choreographic work. Articulation and the use of detail are equally important. Michelle Heaven.