FRINGE REVIEW | THE MINISTRY
by Charlotte Pordage
Arguably one of the most influential novels of the twentieth century, 1984 is George Orwell’s dystopian nightmare, a terrifying account of a totalitarian regime where all actions, words and even thoughts are under constant surveillance and scrutiny.
The Ministry is a live art event directly inspired by Orwell’s tale and promises an immersive, multi-disciplinary experience in which guests are not simply spectators, but active participants in the performance, each with a unique and important role to play. Monash University is reimagined as Oceania and we are its citizens, invited to tour the clandestine headquarters of the State.
We enter a black room where grim-faced Ministry officials hand us lab coats and instruct us to fill out our identity cards. We are forbidden to speak and as the silence builds, a feeling of anticipation and nervous excitement ripples through the air, as everyone wonders what the evening has in store for them. Suddenly a voice cuts through the stillness, explaining the rules of the Ministry: “do not speak unless you are spoken to; walk only where instructed; if someone touches you on the shoulder you must go with them…”
The scene is set. What follows is a 90 minute descent into confusion and paranoia, as you journey through a set so elaborate and meticulously planned that you never really know where you are or exactly what is going on. Mysterious notes appear as if by magic, citizens are removed from the rest of the group without warning and there is the constant reminder that The Ministry is always watching you.
All logic and fact is turned on its head and the negative implications of data collection and technological advancement begin to feel alarmingly real. At one point we are required to take a multiple choice test, accompanied by the admonition that failure to record our answers will not be tolerated, a notion that becomes even more ridiculous when it quickly becomes apparent that we are being forced to choose between two incorrect answers. As the test continues, everything in my body is crying out to rebel, to throw down my pencil and scream “this is wrong!”
But, brought into line by the unflinching stare of the Ministry and the pressure of seeing everyone else finish the test, I don’t, immediately realising the price of not taking action and how easily we may be complicit in our downfall.
Overall, I was highly impressed by the performance, particularly the level of thought and detail that had gone into producing such a large-scale event. The acting was excellent and all of the performers were sufficiently chilling in their roles as cold-blooded Ministry officials.
The Ministry is the latest offering from Kin Collaborative, a Melbourne based visual and performing arts company founded on the principles of its namesake- those of kinship and collaboration. Now in its fourth year, the organisation provides a platform for like-minded artists to work together and support one another.
The performance took place at MUST, Monash Uni Student Theatre, which produces a diverse range of works with and for Monash students and the wider community.
For more information, visit www.theministry.org.au.
Charlotte Pordage is a freelance writer/editor from the UK. When she’s not editing the Local News section, she can be found riding her horse Oscar and exploring Melbourne’s eclectic nightlife. @charpordage