• The Farm's 'Stunt Double'.Photo by Jade Ferguson. (Photo is from the Brisbane Festival season.)
    The Farm's 'Stunt Double'.Photo by Jade Ferguson. (Photo is from the Brisbane Festival season.)
  • A scene from Matt Pasquet's 'Only Bones'. Photo by Jason Matz.
    A scene from Matt Pasquet's 'Only Bones'. Photo by Jason Matz.

ONLY BONES V.1.9 (Matt Pasquet)
Reviewed January 27

Reviewed Feb 15

Studio Underground, WA State Theatre Centre

A sense of deep acoustic immersion and extraordinary combative bodies united these two recent performances.

Stunt Double focussed on the backstage realities of making a chaotic, larger-than-life Ozploitation film, close in style to Razorback (1984). The narrative involved a conflict between charismatic lead actor and sexual abuser (Gavin Webber), stunt double (Grayson Millwood), female lead (Kate Harman), and her stunt double (Alex Kay). In comparison, Only Bones had a more fantastic conceit, using light to pick out body parts offering micro-portraits of non-human, octopus-meets-crab creatures, shown to be enslaving and maybe even part of the highly athletic and put-upon standing human figure that emerges (Matt Pasquet). 

The staging of Stunt Double was often busy, with seven cast members plus several semi-rehearsed audience volunteers, all drawing the attention in several different directions. It was often the music and sound effects that held things together. Sound designer Luke Smiles drew on classic rock, digital atmospheres and even US musicals. A particular highlight had Kay and Harman wending their way through, or marching in parallel to, a row of moving panels arrayed like walls or mirrors, recalling the mirror fight in Enter the Dragon (1973). The performers exchanged places before falling back in dismay, to the tune of haunting synthesiser tones reminiscent of film scores by John Carpenter and others. Together with a faux car chase in which Kay fought off a plethora of zombies all dressed as Webber's character in beige safari suits and sporting moustaches, these were the strongest sections in what was otherwise an array of loosely connected set pieces.

Stunt Double featured many combat scenes in which bodies spectacularly spun and tumbled. In comparison, Pasquet’s solo was stripped back and abstract, bringing the athleticism of the performer most explicitly to the fore. The first third of the solo featured only hands, feet and a video of rippling flesh overlaid and doubled across Pasquet’s already muscled, flexing back. The sound was if anything more overpowering than Smiles’ bassy tracks. Pasquet provided live non-verbal sounds to accompany his pulsing, apparently swimming and fighting creations. The Studio’s excellent acoustics and powerful PA served him well. Where The Farm used the system to provide aural punctuations and an audience experience akin to being at a rock gig, Pasquet transported the audience not just underground, but into an underwater space beyond conventional time.

After Pasquet’s intriguingly non-human and hence non-sensical gestural fantasies, the revelation of Pasquet’s full body was initially deflating, especially when the next sequence had him miming being forced by his hands to eat or drop a red ball. But Pasquet’s sheer virtuosity, particularly in his use of kung fu/wushu, reestablished a visceral drama.

The climax of Only Bones consisted of a slightly abstracted solo wushu practice sequence, the general form of which is known to any lover of kung fu cinema. Moving between serpentine, crane slides, and forcefully arrested punches and blocks, as well as surprising transitions, Pasquet included a masterful version of a full body spin followed by a squat and a leap into the air, the point of the foot coming forward above his nose. He performed these and other convolutions while continuing his non-verbal enunciations and highly amplified breaths, now closer to the well known interjections of kung fu performers (famously Bruce Lee’s high pitched “wooooo-who!” thwack!). Dramaturgically, it suggested that wushu acted to shake off these primitive controlling forces and construct a more fully human if bewildered person and body. This left Pasquet exhausted, staring out at the audience.

While The Farm’s delightfully shaggy, extended narrative offered more to laugh at and consider, Pasquet’s compressed use of physical and sonic power was arguably more cohesive and satisfying in this venue.


'Only Bones v1.9' was presented as part of Fringeworld 2024 on Jan 27-28.
'Stunt Double' was presented as part of Perth Festival 2024 on Feb 15-18.



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