I scan my finger in the grubby little machine four or five times before it finally lets me clock out. I don’t know why they make us do that – they just change my hours to fit the run sheet anyway. I pull off my crusty, soaking wet bar shoes, change into my good ones and walk out, down Beaufort Street towards Elizabeth Quay. I check my bank balance – $23 till pay day, enough for one round.
I meet Ella at Noodle Palace and buy us a couple of twelve-dollar plastic cups of cider. My card declines and I go to move a few cents around with some banking hocus-pocus, but the bartender isn’t looking, so we slink away towards the small shipping container with people queuing out the front.
Ella says Séance will be a fun, scary Fringe World show, but I’ve read enough Aleister Crowley to know better. Created by British artists Glen Neath and David Rosenberg, Séance is a show that takes place completely in the dark, a sonic and sensory excursion into humanity’s most primal fears of the unknown, and the terrors that live amongst it.
The inside of the shipping container is a long, dark room with a long wooden table down the middle, flanked by red, occult looking chairs and small brass bells hanging from the ceiling. It has me nervous, but I tell myself – the only reason we get scared, entertained or even take interest in a movie or a show is because we submit to it. We participate in the diegesis, in the lie and the hocus-pocus of it all. That’s what makes it fun, that’s what makes it scary.
We participate in the diegesis, in the lie and the hocus-pocus of it all. That’s what makes it fun, that’s what makes it scary.
I tell myself this, but I still have that built-in childhood fear that the Blair Witch or the Babadook might jump out from under my bed if talk to the wrong voice in the dark. Ella and I put our headphones on and look at each other nervously; I look at the girl sitting opposite me at the table, and I can tell she has no idea what to expect either. The lights flicker, and Baaabaaadook, dook, dook is knocking around in my head as they go out. We sit in complete darkness.
A voice begins speaking to us through the headphones, soft and deliberate. I don’t trust it – but I’m not supposed to.
‘I need you to put your hands on the table. It is very important that you keep your hands on the table and your eyes closed, otherwise the chain will be broken.’
I play along, putting my hands on the table, and closing my eyes in the dark.
‘I ask you to be open, to let the voices in. To give in to them. We ask you, if you are here now, Master, to let us know.’
A bell chimes, and I feel feet walking on the table in front of me, right past my knees. I can feel and hear feet walking in the chamber and I grip the table in a flash of panic. And the voice increases. It becomes more intense and splits, becoming a multiplicity of the same voice, telling us these demonic things.
The voice…becomes more intense and splits, becoming a multiplicity of the same voice, telling us these demonic things.
The ‘audience’ drones along, yeeesss Master, through the noise cancelling headphones and in that moment, with their imported, recorded British accents, I recognise the hocus-pocus and the illusion is shattered. The show continues and the room starts shaking violently; my ears tell me that the room is crushing in on itself. The single voice leading Séance cries out in sorrow as the demon comes through my headphones and into my mind to take over my body.
On the walk home, Ella and I only talk a little about the show. We both agree that it was well put together and entertaining, but fell short at the critical point. Ella starts telling me about the all access tour of Optus Stadium she took with her work in the afternoon; the corporate boxes, private bars and the exclusive, north-facing, private balcony bar. She shows me drone photos of the stadium and photos of leather-bound private lounges full of luxury features designed to keep out the taxpaying public it was so generously designed for. She tells me with enthusiasm about how, for the price of a kidney, you can pay to sit next to the coach in the coach’s box; or, for a lung, you can watch the players in the locker rooms through a two-way mirror, kind of like your very own sweaty private peep show lounge. I find that especially creepy.
The $1.8 billion stadium is an amazing monument to our city, like a petrified hurricane made of light. It is decadent and impressive but I just can’t figure out why we should be so excited. Most of the people I know normally have about $23 to their name too, and just want a cheap parmy and a pint. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the median West Australian household earns about $1200 per week after tax. They spend $465 a week on the mortgage, around $180 on transport, $237 on groceries – and with the long list of expenses, end up with a cost of living of $1,420 per week. This doesn’t allow for a Fringe ticket, tickets to a game at Optus Stadium, a fucking beer and a parmy on the weekend. Nothing.
The stadium is an amazing monument to our city, like a petrified hurricane made of light. It is decadent and impressive but I just can’t figure out why we should be so excited.
And $1200 per week is supposedly smack bang in the middle. At an ‘average’ outgoing expenditure of $1,420, more than half of Western Australians are consistently falling short of the bare minimum needed to get ahead at the end of each week.
The Perth media has fallen under the spell of the new stadium. Feature after feature – jobs, jobs, jobs! 2,300 brand new casual positions at Optus Stadium. It’s a bloody jobs bonanza, Gary! – they say. We’re told to be excited about the boost it will give to our economy and to be excited about the blurry lines between sleight of hand and sorcery.
But what good is 2,300 new casually employed people with $23 in their bank accounts and even fewer rights in the workplace? Sure, the stadium is well put together and entertaining, but it falls short at the critical point.
What good is 2,300 new casually employed people with $23 in their bank accounts and even fewer rights in the workplace?
The new stadium is not the Babadook hiding under our bed. But, like the increasing Americanisation of Medicare, it is symptomatic of the parasitic legacy left for the new State Government: the people making the decisions have completely lost touch with the people they are making those decisions for. Decadent temples of money worship like this will not provide well-structured education programs, graduate level professional jobs, apprenticeships, traineeships and opportunities that can offer meaningful employment to lift people out of the drudgery of minimum wage, zero-hours contracts.
What if a séance isn’t a blood-soaked ritual that takes place in a dark room with red occult looking chairs and a long wooden table? What if the real séances we should be afraid of take place every day in board rooms and offices, where starch-shirted businessmen and women, posing as politicians, sit with their open hands on tables and their eyes squeezed firmly shut by fear and ambition?