Presented by the The Alchemist Theatre Company, Liberation takes as its starting point both the ideas of Zen influenced philosopher Alan Watts and Shoshana Stern’s therapeutic art workshops, the Liberation Project. Watts believed there is a tension between the inherent playfulness of existence, and the pressures upon us from birth to conform to societal norms. Rather than enjoying life’s journey—being in the moment—we ‘eliminate the distance between places’, striving towards an ultimate, but non-existent, goal.
For the majority of the show the performers, including the band, are completely naked, but they make this feel so natural and liberating that it seems almost peculiar to mention it. Indeed if anything, it feels strange that the audience have their clothes on. The comfortable, non-sexualised nudity, and the interaction of the human form with poster and powder paint, are the most effective aspects of the show. There is something inherently beautiful and almost mesmerising about watching the paint move through the air and collide with the human body—brought even more to life by the use of side-lighting—as if watching live action painting.
Liberation wants to make a profound point, and in some ways it does achieve this, as it is uplifting and liberating to watch, and often joyful in a simple way. However, the structure of the work isn’t as tight as it needs to be, and it seems to be unnecessarily literal in its approach to its main themes. The latter in particular, appears to sit uneasily within the context of abstract play—paint against body.
In many ways, Liberation is fairly unsophisticated, but maybe this is also its point. As Watt’s points out, although we are taught that life has a serious purpose, perhaps it is more akin to music: something we are supposed sing or dance to while it is being played.