Image by Alex Brenner
I wasn’t really sure what to expect, waiting outside Stage 2 of Northumbria University Student’s Union to see Domestica. I was having a bit of moment, remembering being a student here fifteen years ago, and I was instantly transported back to the past, even though the interior is unrecognisable to what it was then. I was already time-travelling before the show started.
Described as “part narcoleptic beauty pageant, part psychosexual fever dream,” Domestica is an attempt by award-winning live art and experimental theatre group Sleepwalk Collective to better understand our relationship with ‘high’ or ‘classical’ art. I was intrigued about how they would manage to do that, bearing in mind the vast body of work involved.
How they were able to create something that evoked the exquisite beauty of Ancient Greece, the Renaissance and 19th Century Naturalism against a backdrop of the seemingly spiritless 21st century is beyond me. The three ethereal performers struck right at the heart of the audience with their elaborate monologues, often using disturbing metaphors to remind us of the hardships of these times. The stage was ever-changing, with works of art recreated throughout the piece underneath a cloud of swirling mist. In the background was a screen with a running commentary feed which occasionally mocked the audience, reminding us of our modern world and how we digest information today. The section on love was mesmerising (“love is like an industrial accident, love is like a fascist rally”) and the mock interval with TV screens showing a montage of modern day images also made you think.
As I left I had an overwhelming urge to dig out my art books and dive into the past. A daring, abstract yet deeply personal piece.