Five is a sacred number. It is the symbol of the human being. There are five naked eye planets, there are five senses and there are five basic emotions. ‘5’, explores the Wu Xing, the five elements and five cardinal directions in Chinese philosophy. These elements [wood, fire, metal, water, earth] are linked with the voice and emotional expression, cardinal directions and colours to form an abstract exploration of the human voice and body. Individual elements are represented through movement, primitive vocal expressions and made-up language. Each element corresponds with a colour: Fire – red, Earth – yellow, Metal – white, Water – black (or blue), Wood – green (or blue). Each element and colour has been linked with a basic emotion.
There is no dialogue, and if any words are spoken throughout the performance, they are made up, improvised words spurred on by impulse and as a reaction to a certain image (either internal image, or external, like from other performers’ movements or gestures).
‘5’ is not a conventional, narrative play. Instead, it is an exploration of devices (e.g., exercises, concepts and ideas) used throughout Voice Theatre’s 2008 training sessions.
‘5’ is a flexible performance, it can be performed anywhere and can run for any length of time.
Rehearsal photos by Ellissa Nolan
"If words are our thoughts in action, then what are we to make of a performance of complex story-telling where there are no words, just sounds. One might say that ballet and dance cope with this very well, and any addition of sounds might enhance meaning. ‘5’ is a physical and vocal journey exploring the number ‘5’ and as such it is presented as neither a scripted piece nor a dance piece. The director, Robert Lewis, claims that there is no story either, but rather interconnections of scenes which depict the five natural elements inspired by the ‘Wu Xing’ in Chinese philosophy. What the actors are able to do, though, is present powerful connections, destructions, yearnings, responses and emotions of all kinds just through a heightened use of voice and appropriate physicalisation.
This kind of presentation is not for faint-hearted actors, either, for the extraordinary use of voice is taken to a level not often heard on stage. The actors use an astonishing range of vocal techniques way beyond what is required for normal text-based work and as such extend the audience’s involvement in the journey which the actor’s take in representing and defining their particular element. Often there were intense moments, either as soloist or ensemble, but there were also times when there was a noticeable holding back as if self-exploration stayed in the comfort zone rather than impulsively letting go. The same could be said for the spontaneity inherent in the semi-improvisational techniques used by the actors: when they were really in the moment there were harrowing and wonderful sequences, but there were also times when it was clear that the sound was predetermined no matter what influence was at work.
It is a pity that in our human world of emotions and feelings there is only one positive against four negatives. As such, most of ‘5’ is quite intense, moving from one conflict to another, pulling apart and destroying any hope of conciliation. However, happiness was represented, but was mostly overwhelmed, which meant that there was virtually no relief from the onslaught and no longed-for sense of smiling calm, of warm harmony, and of resolution.
Western philosophies look for cause and effect but Lewis examines the integration of voice and body and introduces us, through the performers, to three types of ‘crisis’: conceptual, physical and vocal. These are wonderfully demonstrated throughout, and what emerged at times was a thrilling balletic soundscape. ‘5’ is an effective demonstration of the power of the emotion, the body and the voice. We are lucky to have people who have the talent to deconstruct, to abstract and entertain us with this unique style of theatre. The number 5 is a sacred number in many cultures whether of elements, directions, feelings, body culture, medicine or other worldly or unnatural phenomena. To interpret these in movement and vocal expression is insightful and exploratory. The result deserves five stars."
Authorised by the Head of School, Tasmanian College of the Arts
22 October, 2012