Station House Opera, Roadmetal, Sweetbread

Review in Issue 11-4 | Winter 1999

Station House Opera are a company who have continually produced interesting and challenging work. After hearing about their piece at New York’s Brooklyn Bridge, where a cable snapped and almost plunged a table full of litigious Americans into the Hudson, I entered the Hayward Gallery with more than a little affection for the group.

Sadly, our first date did not go well. Don’t get me wrong, Roadmetal, Sweetbread gives good head. It’s a clever show, and Julian Maynard Smith and Susannah Hart are talented technical performers who skilfully walk us through the dynamics of ‘coupledom’. Unfortunately, the characters they portray only stretch to two dimensions, so that what we end up with resembles a rather arty soap opera. The company’s work with video, however, is exceptional. Many contemporary companies use video merely as a fashionable and inexpensive backdrop. In this show the video works with the performers, projecting into the space, itself becoming part of the action. This is the genius of the production, but also its greatest weakness. As the projection is used as a ‘third performer’, so must the other performers treat it as such. The actors are therefore forced into the role of automaton, reacting to a medium that can neither think with them, nor be inspired by the moment or the space at the time of performance. It’s an interesting contradiction for a piece which is essentially site-specific.

The company should be applauded for its experimentation with performance and video, but don’t we need at least a little heart with our art?

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Oct 1999

This article in the magazine

Issue 11-4
p. 20