Speaking to us through headphones against a hypnotising soundscape which hurtles through the earth, sea and stars, Sleepwalk Collective’s captivating solo performer iara Solano Arana tempts our minds to wander to moments of pleasure and amusement. Sat in a darkened lectured theatre of a bustling arts venue as you know it is, the body still bristles at the involuntary sensation of plummeting on a fairground ride or drowning under the weight of water. Our bodily responses can not be resisted even though our minds know them to be false. We are just machines.
Technology is integral to Amusements, both in its centrality to the audience’s experience of it and the images the monologue conjures. While our bodies respond automatically to sensual stimulus, as an audience we are collectively ‘a machine for watching’, each encircled head plugged in to the theatrical experience which may feel deeply personal to us but is essentially communal.
Likewise, the distance from the woman’s mouth to our ears, although in reality just a few feet, feels infinite through the metres of cable and wireless transmission that carry her voice from microphone to headphone. And yet her speaking to us remains inescapably intimate, her every move a studied and self-conscious demonstration of milk-white skin on skin that feels utterly unreal. The audience are thus voyeurs on the wrong side of a glowing red window, while she a perfect doll under transformative lighting for our entertainment.
Through technology, Sleepwalk Collective play with what it is to experience in a piece that questions that very issue itself, and it quickly becomes impossible to keep a hold on anything you think and feel during this dark and manipulative sonic simulation. As our mind’s eye soars to the highest heights of a rollercoaster it comes crashing back to earth at the simple mention of an auditorium. It seems to be a challenge: why seek cheap thrills on a fairground ride or in the arms of another when theatre alone can give you the ride of your life?