A man appears in front of us. Hey, so we should probably talk sometime soon about what’s happening. He sings. He rambles. He collapses. He jokes. He is an electric pulse of charisma and wit. He commands our attention. Something has happened to him - something not even he knows. He’s figuring it out. And like a car-crash in slow motion, we watch, transfixed.
Andrew Schneider has a long list of eclectic credits and skills to his name. He has worked as a video artist, performer, musician, inventor, dancer; the list goes on. In his most recent offering, YOUARENOWHERE, he brings the entirety of this diverse skillset to bear on subjects that range from quantum physics to alcoholism to moments of connection between strangers. The result is an utterly singular experience.
There are myriad ways of reading this piece; as infinite as the multiverse to which it alludes. But perhaps a number of readings could be encapsulated by describing the work as a live account of a man falling apart - whether due to physical trauma, substance abuse, existential crisis or a combination of such factors is never made explicit. To provide a linear account of my experience seems counter-intuitive, as the work itself explicitly defies the idea of linear narratives, and of linear time. Schneider has created a kind of performance essay, in which he bounces effortlessly between a physics lecture, storytelling, movement, and spectacle. The genius here is in the way the form perfectly fits the content.
Much has been said of the technical spectacle of this work. Schneider and his team have custom-designed the L.E.D. lighting, as well as the wearable technology that purportedly triggers many of the cues in the show. There is a level of precision in the tech that defies belief even as it flashes before your eyes. Lights come up and down instantly, changes of lighting and sound fit perfectly to Schneider’s movements, and momentary ‘glitches’ are unnerving to witness. Through this precision, the technical elements become a deeply expressive, live medium in their own right, never a mere aid to the body and voice of the performer. Counterpoint all of this technology with the show’s flawlessly executed stage-craft (the performer disappears, reappears; objects thrown off stage materialise elsewhere; gags are perfectly timed to audience responses), and you’ll begin to get a sense of the special magic of this show.
To provide even the briefest of summaries of the show’s content feels impossible. There are so many ideas in this piece - Schneider slides seamlessly from quantum physics to AA recovery steps to solipsism to Einstein’s theory of special relativity to ponderings on love and missed connection - a moment in which he chooses one audience member to fall in love with, and ends up whispering hopeful pleas in their ear (last night, this lucky reviewer may have been the audience member in question, and can testify that the connection Schneider makes with his subject is real). Through all of these topic - changes, the piece never loses focus. The dramaturgy and pacing is mind-bendingly precise; along with the scientific and philosophical content, minute details of the central character are revealed through his range of expression and interaction with the audience.
I feel I’ve only scratched the surface of what could be said about this piece. It deceived me, questioned me, seduced me, comforted me, disturbed me. It’s a work that you live inside of, for the hour of the show and beyond. If you haven’t seen the piece, bend time and space to do so.
Created by Andrew Schneider
Co-Creators: Alessandra Calabi, Peter Musante, Christine Shallenberg, with Karl Franklin Allen, Daniel Jackson and Bobby McElver
Produced by: Sandra Garner/Lingua Franca Arts
Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall