In the show, two performers answer hundreds of relentless and overwhelming questions with one seemingly simple word. YES has many more words than any previous Rabble production and was created through a series of workshops and improvisations between Valente, Davis and two actors, Dana Miltins and Mary Helen Sassman.
Valente describes herself as the “word keeper” of the theater group, rather than the writer. “It’s a very collaborative process, there’s no way I could write this without the band and the performers, and then we also had to keep changing it and updating it and allowing the sense of what we were doing change and change and change.”
The process was illuminating, not least in its revelation that coercive control isn’t hard – just by adding “isn’t it?” at the end of a sentence, you put words in someone’s mouth, making them say what you want.
The staging of YES is a stark contrast to their other works, says Davis. It takes place on an empty stage with a large television screen and another screen inside, on which things keep appearing; the audiovisual element becomes like another character.
“Normally our sets are very provocative, you sit in the room and it’s like ‘wow’. This is a set full of surprises and revelations. You don’t know where you are, because the things go from invisible to real,” she says. “It’s certainly relative to the idea of not revealing anything, of pulling back the curtain to see the truth. Still, though, the design would be full of transformations. , always in motion, the invisible to the real has been in very recent development.It is theatrical theatre, very classic.
The work of The Rabble has evolved over the 15 years since their inception. These days they work more closely with the community, like in their pregnancy shows, for example, when they spoke with women about their lived experiences, and with older women.
Amid the pandemic, all kinds of questions arise about how we want to live our lives.YES is a timely offering during these conversations, highlighting the need to question and confront, challenging social norms and structures. “We don’t have an answer as to whether they should be demolished – or even if we should,” Valente said. “Experience is about how to build [an alternative] and to show people that certain things definitely happen. This has been a very useful expression of the concept for us. Who holds the knowledge or the power? It was just a big question, really.
YES by the Rabble is at Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall, from April 1-10.
A cultural guide to go out and love your city. Sign up for our Culture Fix newsletter here.