Goggled view-point : operatic thriller's search for the alter ego
Matthew Sharp gave a tantalizing solo performance in the operatic thriller 'Johnny's Midnight Goggles' on Monday January 11, 2010 at Natrani. In the wake of increasingly intrusive nature of globalization, Matthew narrates the story of a metaphorical journey to salvage the enslaved Johnny from the clutches of theMachiavellian machine-driven network. The army of machines form a phalanx ofvillains who trigger the mindless abuse of human resources and nature.
The episodic structure of the play begins with a path and ends with Johnny walking down the same path and returning from a mundane existence to a living faceless hell to a definitive redemption. The story unfolds with a disappearance using imageries that range from a black camel to the uncomfortable presence of growling animals and gutted instincts. Johnny his friend, has been kidnapped;overcoming fear and foreboding, the protagonist sets out treading back and forth in time. Between pragmatism and dream. Between reality and magic where the journey is the destination. And the fate of one man becomes intertwined with the collective aspirations of the universe.
Matthew is an astute performer and a talented musician. Although there was creative use of sound and sound effects, the mode of communication was primarily auditive. Matthew was largely rooted to one place on the stage due to the cluster equipment and the placement of the cello.
In a way, although the message of the play was to transcend the debilitating influence of the 'machine', Matthew was transfixed due to the technology hub created by his backstage crew. And that itself was a paradox.
Not aiding and neither abetting the narrative was the use of overlapping sound at times jarring the narrative and spilling on to the enmeshed music. enmeshed
Coming back to the narrative, there were political references and asides that echoed the colonialist French man to fashion mishaps of Sarah Palin. The predominant use of green lighting can be viewed at two levels, on one hand it symbolizes greed and on the other it also reflects the sub-text of the environmental decay.
As the story concludes, we stumble onto the realisation thatJohnny is the trapped man in all of us. He is the slave of the material-craving world where time zones dissolve and there is a relentless blind onslaught of the brand-web that casts its net on us. In this journey of the stage to the grave; one day in Johnny's hellhole is the equivalent of one year as sickness and the writer in Matthew Sharps script nudges us to believe that that our lives of glut would make us the victims of the excess.
In that clarion call of anyone who is willing to hear and act must walk away from the infernal machines (as Johnny did), the play ends. But does it? As I drive home to the neon-spilled Ahmedabad road, I am seized by the thoughts of the performance. It's use of myths and metaphor; but only one grouse if the mechanicality of technology(used not very effectively by the performer…revealing at times acute lack of stagecraft) talks about the mechanics of becoming mechanical, aren't we missing the power of live in live performance? What say you Mr Sharp? Are your goggles still on?