"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Sydney Morning Herald JUNE 8, 2009 - by Jason Blake
TALES FROM THE AFTERLIFE
Opera Theatre, June 6
In his book Sum, the American author and neuroscientist David Eagleman posits forty speculative scenarios for the sweet hereafter.
This staged reading, featuring a live score composed and played by Brian Eno, selects twelve of them, beginning with the title story (read by ten-year-old Tennessee Baz-Jeffrey) describing an afterlife in which you relive all your experience, but this time with the events reshuffled into a new order: all the moments that share a quality are grouped together. You will, for example, spend thirty consecutive years asleep; fifteen months looking for lost items; seven months having sex; two hundred hours in the shower; seven hours vomiting. Only fourteen minutes will be devoted to experiencing pure joy.
Sitting at desks, thirteen readers take turns in the spotlight: Egalitaire (read by Aku Kadogo) describes a heaven so rigidly non-hierarchical that all those in it soon come to regard it as hell; Metamorphosis (read by Maggie Blinco) advances the idea that death takes place not once but three times, the third death being the last time the person's name is spoken in the realm of the living; Circle Of Friends (read by Andy Ko) sets out an afterlife populated entirely by people you have encountered in life; Angst (Martin Goodman) imagines human existence as a terrestrial holiday for stressed-out cosmic maintenance workers; Microbe (Raquel Carvajal) describes a god rather smaller than the one we usually imagine. Eagleman himself takes us through what happens when you decide to reincarnate as a horse.
A screen hanging over the Opera Theatre stage displays a triptych of subtly morphing portraits in which men become women, whiskery elders become children, and innocent smiles change into strange grimaces. Seated unobtrusively behind the readers, Eno produces glassy, ringing tones from a keyboard to cushion Eagleman's gently humorous, lightly admonishing hypotheses. Note to self: more joy, less vomiting.