People Being Awesome: Travel Back in Time with these Unique Melbourne Street Performers

Flower faces
All images courtesy of Louise Morris

On Friday, May 25, from 11am to 1pm, a rift in the space-time continuum will open up, somewhere in the vicinity of the Melbourne Arts Centre, allowing casual passers-by a flickering glimpse into the past.

This “rift” has been carefully designed and choreographed by Deakin art and performance students whose aim is “for people to walk around an ordinary corner in the city and witness something unexpected and delightful”.

Th mastermind of the project, Louise Morris, is a seasoned theatre professional who specialises in immersive performances, unbound by the walls of playhouses, that journey through real-world landscapes. Returning for its fourth year, her project Crossings brings visual and performance artists together to create tiny, interactive worlds in public spaces.

While she facilitates the creation of these worlds, Louise says it’s the students who fill them with life. “I give them a provocation at the beginning and then they have their own creative development, exploring their ideas on campus. I look at all the strongest material and see what the through line might be,” said says.

Students getting into character on campus
Even the rehearsals draw a crowd of curious onlookers
All seventy students will converge, their worlds meeting in a stunning finale

Under Louise’s guidance, the students have now developed a two hour performance in which silent film characters from the 1920 and ’30s emerge into our modern world, encased in their own little bubbles of reality.

“The students generate all of the choreography, working from the design brief which, eventually, unites all 70 of them in a performance that will take over the arts precinct,” she says.

Louise says this type of performance engagement is about playing with the unexpected in public space. Using soundscapes and high-level visual and costume design, the students are producing living art installations that bring sepia film characters to life within our multi-coloured, high-definition, modern world.  

“Someone might just be on their lunch break, walk past the arts centre lawn and see an old-fashioned, black and white, silent film playing out around them. They might glance up at the balcony of Hamer Hall and see more visions from the past playing out up there.”

Past performances have been equally etherial
Fully immersed characters exploring our modern world

While its inspiration lies in the past, Crossings has been designed to fit within the demands of modern life. You can follow the performers for the full two hours, but the show is really designed for passers-by; adding a touch of wonder and strangeness to what might otherwise have been an ordinary day.

It’s rare to have this many performers, actors and dancers in a public space because of the simple logistical issue of affordability. Louise says Crossings is thoroughly unique in that sense. “We’ve all seen flashmobs, but this functions differently, the performers are in these fully immersed character worlds, so it’s almost like a seperate reality is going on around you. It’s quite magical to see that come together in the city.” 

You can watch, an invisible observer, able to see the performers’ reality without being part of it. Or, you can pass through the rift in spacetime and interact with the people of the past. 

“There’s a little old-fashioned photo booth where you can get into costumes and interact with the characters,” Louise says. You’ll get an image to memorialise your trip into the past but, in keeping with the weird blend of history-meets-modernity, that image will be uploaded to Instagram. 

There’ll be old-fashioned usherettes, a fortune teller, and all sorts of different characters you can interact with. But, Louise says, it’s all at the agency of the audience. “It’s not one of those experiences where you’re walking past and you’re going to be accosted by people when you don’t want to be. If you choose to interact with the performers they will come to life for you in different ways.” 

If you’re a fan of old movies, rips in spacetime, or just weird things happening in public, then make sure you’re in the CBD on Friday, May 25, for Crossings. The one-time-only performance will be rollicking around the arts centre from 11am to 1pm. 


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