30 October 2006

Of All The People In All The World: Pacific Rim

MIAF 2006
Of All The People In All The World: Pacific Rim
Stan’s Cafe

14 October 2006
Arts House, Meat Market

Who knew a pile of rice could be so moving or so shocking, or that a single grain on a piece of paper could make us laugh out loud.

Of All The People In All The World: Pacific Rim is part of the Melbourne International Arts Festival free program. It is presented by Britain’s Stans Café theatre company, who specialise in creating unusual performances in a range of contexts.

The unusal feature of this performance is an ever changing installation created by 33 tonnes of rice. Each grain represents a person in the Pacific Rim. The original Of All The People In All The World: UK premiered in 2003 with 989 kgs of rice. The whole world version used over 100 tonnes of rice and was recently seen at at Stuttgart’s Theater der Welt Festival.

A team of performers weigh and measure the grains to represent a variety of population and human statistics. Like all statistics, figures mean little until they are tangible.

On entering the Meat Market you take your own grain of rice – which represents you. You can almost immediately find yourself in a pile that represents the population of Melbourne (and the other Melbourne’s around the world). There is the fun of discovering which other piles you belong in. These could include people at the MCG during the AFL grand final, people who work at home, people born in the UK, or even those in an incredibly disturbing mound: the number of people who watch Neighbours.

Some piles shock and surprise by their sheer mass, others by our ability to count the individual grains. The pile representing Holocost victims will never cease to be sobering (that is what 6 million looks like), as are the few grains representing the Amish school girls so recently murdered.

Others are striking in their comparisons. The population of Britain is about the same as the number of people who buy McDonalds every day. The number of prisoners in the world is the same as people living in gated communities in the USA.

As laughter is so often the more powerful emotion, the most engaging aspect of this work is the unexpected humour and wit. Titanic the movie compared to Tiantic the ship. People who walked on the moon next to a famous moonwalker. And do not leave until you have found the US Secretary of State.

Throughout your wanderings are the cast. Clad in brown lab coats, the “statistic scientists” move around observing their work, quietly chatting with the visitors, gently rearranging the perfect piles, painstakingly removing any marks on the white paper bases or checking that someone hasn’t added themselves to the smaller piles. When I was there someone had tried to join Michael Jackson.

All The People In All The World: Pacific Rim creates a profound level of understanding to the numbers and statistics that fill our lives. It is a work that could make you feel insignificant, but instead maintains the value and importance of every single person represented by a number.

This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com

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