Seeing Place’s Time Capsule

Audio performance is a growing trend in southern Queensland’s zeitgeist.


Seeing Place’s Time Capsule combines prerecorded audio with live dance and physical theatre to create an immersive guided tour performance. Through the stimulus of a time capsule buried under Sundale Shopping centre in 1969, Time Capsule audiences step back through time to the centre’s beginnings in the late1960’s. The piece follows the stores progression from its opening in 1968 right through to its closure in 1990. With physical stimulus from the time capsule, and the delivery of interviews with local residents swapping from audio recordings to the mouths of the performers, Sundale shopping centre’s past is brought back to life in the span of an hour.


The tour’s beginnings with an exhibit of the time capsule’s contents in the Southport library provides an introduction to Sundale’s past and the feel of what is to come within the performance. With sepia toned images and gold and brown memorabilia the exhibition seems to utilise a colour scheme that links back to the physical time capsule itself. Add the audio technology of the piece with the wireless headphones streaming sounds of the past for pre-intermission ambience and there was a significant apprehension in the air.


The live performance began strong, with the performers being pulled from a glowing hole within an empty shop as if being plucked from their existence in the past. The performers stood rigid like mannequins as each new ensemble member joined them in their new surroundings. As each mannequin tested their bodies and loosened up they created an unsettling likeness to ghosts coming back to life. This opening moment was one of the show’s highlights, utilising a powerful manipulation of the body to create a marriage between mannequins and dancers – not unlike human tin men coming back to life with the oil of an audience.


Other memorable moments, and in turn performances, include a cheesy yet lovable all-in ensemble piece performed in time with the Sundale shopping centre jingle, Silvan Rus, Hsin-Ju Chiu, and Kate Harman’s vibrating interpretation of predicted 2000 A.D. travel machinery (such as the typical jet back), and, probably most striking, a history of two significant Chinese restaurants delivered by show stealers Chiu and Rus through both hybridised oriental and contemporary dance, and a combination of storytelling in both English and Mandarin.


The hour-long performance’s climactic piece provided a representation of consumerism where actors climbed their way through an ocean of grey plastic shopping bags and battled each other to be the first to reach a lonely shopping trolley sat at the opposite end of the room. The light positioned within the trolley created a light at the end of the tunnel effect to the shopfront piece, adding depth and an interesting dynamic to the otherwise stark and empty shopfront.


With instances linked to both the Sundale Shopping Centre’s cinema, restaurants, cafeteria, and the fashion, domestic lifestyle and consumerism of the early 1970s, Time Capsule combines the use of actors and audio recordings to bring the stories of the past to life.  While past and present Gold Coast residents are invited into an uncanny flashback to their memories, other audience members, such as myself, are given an insight into how rapid and widespread the city’s development has been over the past three decades. Time Capsule is a blast from the past, an activation of a somewhat neglected contemporary urban space and a beautiful combination of actors, dancers, and theatre makers creating interrelationships between the past, the present and the possible future.

– Written by Rhumer Diball November 5th 2015


Photo credit Andrea Miller.


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