Mele Broomes’ Wrapped Up In This is a collaboration par excellence of performance and direction, stage production, and cinematography. Brought to a virtual audience as part of this year’s Take Me Somewhere festival, Broomes and her team offers a mesmerising visual experience that tells a story of frustration, rejection, and empowerment.
Comprising various sections/scenes, the performance begins with an empty stage, save for rippling blue-lit fog that imitates ocean waves. Accompanying this tranquil scene is a beautiful soundscape that slowly builds with echoing jazz melodies and synthetic beats. When Broomes eventually appears on stage, she moves slowly and gracefully. As more colours begin to emerge from the fog, the whimsy and mystery intensifies. Once centre-stage, a harmonising chorus of womxn’s voices fills your ears, taking over Broomes. In these moments, filmmaker Daniel Hughes expertly showcases Robbie Thomson’s lighting design, with Broomes looking heavenly as the light shines past her. Her brilliance is also reflected in Sabrina Henry’s costume design, as the light bounces off some of the outfits worn.
As the mood of the scene changes, so does the aesthetic. As the spoken word element of the piece begins, Broomes’ frustration over the limitations imposed upon her and her agency are reflected in the close-up visuals, red hues, distorted audio and intense backing soundtrack. Following this charged monologue the blue light and jazz echoing from the opening return, now paired with a stronger electronic beat and strobe lighting. As Broomes moves around, drooped over, the repeated “hey-uh” of the soundtrack gives a sense of fatigue and pushing through. It is then that the concept behind this performance fully comes through. Projected behind Broomes appear the words of womxn who have been limited or discriminated against because of their skin colour.
While initially only fragments of these conversations can be heard, Broomes later allows us to hear each womxn’s story. As they talk about being treated differently – at school and at work – Broomes moves around the stage. With an amazing command of her body, Broomes’ movements are lyrical yet defined. Despite the hardships these womxn have had to endure, their stories conclude with a message of hope and resilience: a will to thrive and take control of their lives. It has a transformative effect on Broomes; now dressed in white, the reborn Broomes has an amoeba-like appearance and holds the audience’s interest with her intense gaze. This leads to a final montage of otherworldly visual effects that exemplify the hypnotic nature of the overall performance.
While Broomes doesn’t rush to introduce the spoken element of the piece, its late appearance does leave the performance feeling slightly unbalanced. With only a 35-minute running time, the piece’s message could perhaps have more impact if the voices of the womxn spoken to by Broomes were introduced earlier. Nevertheless, Wrapped Up In This is a captivating piece of work that will leave you entranced. A visual delight onscreen, you can only image how incredible it could be live.