Sunday, May 9, 2010

'After the Rainbow'

By Soda_Jerk
King's Artist Run Initiative
Level 1 / 171 King Street, Melbourne
From 7 May - 29 May
Wednesday - Saturday 12 - 6pm

In 1995 I was in 'The Wizard of Oz'. It was the nadir of my musical career at high school. The yearly musical productions were my moments in the sun at school, the singular time of year in which I was totally accepted. The one time of year that I felt comfortable. I basked in the small-scale stardom that the annual musical production brought me. Over the years I had put in the hard yards. I had patiently worked my way up the rigid hierarchy, making brief but memorable stops at Tom Thumb in 'Barnum', the Artful Dodger in 'Oliver!', Professor Abner Sedgwick in the little known musical interpretation of Superman's life: 'Superman', Sancho Panza in 'The Man of La Mancha', and here I had arrived at the role of the Scarecrow in 'The Wizard of Oz'. I was the subject of high expectations, from none more than myself. The highest. It was the year after I had corralled scores of people to work on my first film (coincidentally titled 'After the Beanstalk') and a few months before I directed my first large-scale theatre work, a school production of 'Amadeus'. Ambition was writ large in flames across my future which lay before my like a golden duvet. My first true relationship had yet to come to a close. I had not yet experienced any real pain, rejection, loss or disappointment. I had not yet begun the process of developing a veneer of sadness, a veneer that comes with age and wisdom. I was still raw, I had no self protection. I was cloaked in unbridled self-belief, or at least, the belief in my skill, if not my self. My self was nothing more than a vessel for my perceived ability.

I shudder to imagine my disappointment if I could have seen myself as a broken thirty-one year old at that tender, ambitious, uncompromising age of fifteen.

At the Doctor's surgery during the week, my Doctor, as he has every right to do, began to tell me that with a chest infection and all, it really might be time to quit smoking. I have been at the Doctor's a fair bit of late as a month ago I broke my hand playing in a playground. My fifth metacarpal was shortened, angulated and twisted, ushering a titanium plate into my otherwise metal-free right hand. My hand is now strapped up in a plastic splint by electric blue velcro and somewhat out of habit I nurse it like a broken wing. Sat there, in the Doctor's surgery, with the now habitual posture borne out of protecting my broken hand, my entire body hunched around it, the Doctor told me: "You're not Peter Pan, you know." Believe me, I know.
The very day I turned thirty-one, everything was blown apart. Any expectations that I once had of stability and any sense of a future now lies in tatters. I've yet to gather any sense of what may emerge.

Judy Garland is the perfect figure to represent the dissonance between the promise of youth and the disillusion and dissolution of age. Her face in 'The Wizard of Oz' always appears as if looking into a glorious sunset. Her voice follows the cadence of expectation and promise. It is partly this vocal quality that marked her performances as an older woman with such poignancy.
To hijack Dorothy's journey to Oz to illustrate Garland's very public passage from youth to age is a master-stroke.
The journey and particularly the vision provokes a near profound tragic inevitability.
And it's gorgeously done. The groundbreaking cyclone scene disintegrates, the celluloid of the rear-projection burns away. The artifice is made tangible.
Soda_Jerk have produced the remix with an acute attention to detail, utilising the best possible footage of Garland, both from 'The Wizard of Oz' and from 'The Judy Garland Show' some twenty-three years later. The terror of the apparition is quiet and solemn.

'After the Rainbow' runs on a loop of about ten minutes. I watched it three times over.
It may well be the vulnerability I am currently feeling, but I experienced profound grief for the loss of Garland's, and all of our promised futures.

See it.

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