“No Gambling” a performance by Simone Aughterlony and Julia Häusermann, was shown at HAU2 as part of the NO LIMITS – Disability and Performing Arts Festival Berlin (9-19 November 2022). Through an assemblage of moving installations, the performance explores ideas around hope, desire, and addiction.
“LEO, Nov 9, 2022 – Now is the time to be thinking about your professional orientation, Leo. You may need to get some more fun in your life and experience pleasures that you’ve never had before. You have a certain tendency to separate the two worlds of work and play, but there’s no need. In fact, your work will prosper once you discover ways to make it more playful.”
Taking a cue from dance writer Robin Lamothe, I decide to take a look at my day’s horoscope before the performance. And wow, prosperity with playfulness? I am here for it! This performance “No Gambling” seems just like the right mix of both. So I quip ‘Yes Gambling!’, and head to watch the show by Simone Aughterlony and Julia Häusermann.
The first set of dice rolled.
Get up and Run. 31.
“No Gambling” lands the audience straight into a ghost town version of a casino bar-cum-gaming arcade. A bevy of objects is strewn around the space and some are suspended mid-air. Chairs, tables, a dart board, a feathered headgear, a sack of apples, magician’s boxes, a monitor screen, a ‘no exit’ sign among others bring to mind erratic associations without a common thread. Yet they seem to be part of a shared system. Quite literally. A large installation that dominates the stage reminds me of a humongous model of a solar system. It hangs down from the ceiling with many of the objects hooked on to it.
Make them Wait. 58.
The soundscape too provides equally busy impulses to the ears with constant sounds. Ting! A bell. Tra tra taa! A trumpet. Hahaha! Automated studio laughter. Repeat. Ting Tra tra taa Hahaha! Repeat. With Häusermann seated mid-stage, her face and fingers buried onto a gadget, it seems we have found the source of the sounds samples playing on loop. It only stops with the sound of a billiards ball rolling onto the stage. Then one more. And one more. Aughterlony follows the rolling balls on stage. The door of one of the magician’s boxes bangs open and theatre-maker Nele Jahnke rises out of it. Oh well, just another day in the ghost-town casino.
Gateway to heaven. 27.
“No Gambling” creates a world which teeters on the edge of play, dark humour and speculation. The performers constantly re-arrange the objects in space and on their bodies. These new moving installations create new dynamics and relationships, sometimes also including the audience. These moments also have tension and suspense built up, before it is let go feebly. Rather than the bang of a bursting balloon, it is a deflating one. Some of the images remind me of Salvador Dali’s paintings where objects ooze away from a semblance with reality.
A table with a swathe of thick green fabric. Häusermann playing a game of cards. It doesn’t look good. Actually, maybe it’s not so bad after all! Before one can be sure, the green fabric slides off the table and goes off far.
A human body with a dart board for a face. Huge antlers on its head. Its twisting and turning, almost feels like its flirting with the player. A dart is thrown. Doesn’t hit.
While tension is built up into each scene, there is also abundant distraction woven in by the other performers. When a primary action is taking place front stage, I am also captivated by Jahnke who is rolling on the floor to undress and emerge in a dice-themed costume. While Häusermann is giving volunteer audience members rather bleak near-future predictions, I watch Aughterlony slowly climb up a ladder that is floating mid-air. She sits high up on the ladder and peers into the distance through binoculars. Does it look good?
Down on your knees. 43.
In my encounters of the performance and artistic landscape in Berlin, I observe speculative possibilities are directed towards an act of optimistic radical dreaming. I find that “No Gambling” comfortably stays on the fence and even brinks on something fatalistic. With the dark humour and sinister edge, the speculation doesn’t come with the promise of victory. Perhaps, after all, we are not the main protagonist of this film? Someone else walks away with the happy ending? Among the German bingo rhymes that are called out by Jahnke, one stays in my mind.
Kapitalistische Fantasie. 99.
The precarious risk, dizzying distraction, the build-up and release are built into each scene mimicking the gambling scenario of casinos, betting arenas and games. It evokes feelings of hope, suspense and desire. The promise is often not delivered and what one stays with is the notion of addiction. In one moment, Aughterlony goes into body mannerisms of a video game character. She runs around the space and stops by various installations to execute the commanded actions. She picks up weapons, gains ‘health’ points and sometimes runs backwards. The familiarity and spot-on imitation embodied by Aughterlony is comical at first but also leaves me aghast. What is this if not an obsessive behaviour endlessly repeated? Is the countdown leading to a meaningless end? Does it even end?
When I come out of the venue wondering at the bleakness and pathos I felt within me, I wondered if this was the performance makers’ intention in creating this work. However, observing the diversity in audiences outside the HAU2 replenished me. Unlike most performances I attend, there were audience members conversing in sign language with each other. There were members in wheelchairs and also much more senior citizens than I see usually. The festival, NO Limits – Disability and Performing Arts Festival Berlin, through its efforts to expand accessibility of performances, also gave me a new perception of how very small consistent steps can change the composition of audiences. In curating performances made by persons living with disabilities and neuro-divergence, it changes paradigms of who art can be for and who can make art. Now that is for real, Bingo!
“No Gambling” by Simone Aughterlony & Julia Häusermann was shown at HAU2 as part of the NO LIMITS – Disability and Performing Arts Festival Berlin.
NO LIMITS is Germany’s largest and most prominent festival for disability & performing arts and is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. The festival is running from 9 to 19 November 2022 at HAU Hebbel am Ufer, Ballhaus Ost, Theater Thikwa, Theater RambaZamba and FELD Theater für junges Publikum, detailed information on the program and the ticket purchase can be found at www.no-limits-festival.de/programm.