These two girls have been friends since childhood, playing make-believe and integrating themselves into each other’s families, but something has changed and it’s making this reunion awkward. Life’s path only seems clear in retrospect so having a spider friend, a symbol of your future self, drop in to say hello becomes a source of affirmation and reassurance in this production of Spider in My Soup.
Bernadette Fam and Margaret Thanos play two ex-best friends who can’t exactly place when everything changed and they lost touch with each other. They skirt shyly around each other, attempting to deftly navigate intimacy and distance. They flashback to moments spent in each other’s imaginations and shared memories of each other’s domestic familiarity. Thanos comes across as the more vulnerable of the two, more in touch with their past, and more sensitive to time as demonstrated in her cohabitation with a huntsman spider named Gerald. But as the tension of their discomfort grows, it becomes clear both Thanos and Fam see themselves as abandoned and forgotten.
The dynamic between the two friends is gentle and shines through in moments of physical closeness such as a delicate sequence of hand choreography showing in detail the strangeness of physical intimacy between grown adults. The two work like forces drifting around and past each other in the large open space only to reach the edge of each moment, the world of the spiders (Ruby King and Emily Henderson) who spend the performance shaping the stage with sound and spiderwebs.
Bill Chau’s design shrinks the large gallery space into two rugs with the audience in traverse seating. The large room feels close but also breathable as the musicians wander side stage, teasing out threads into webs and providing the soundscape for Fam and Thanos’s performance. Floor lighting additionally lineates the space with piercing blues and pinks that unsettle the reality of the spider realm. The design bears an atmosphere of the unpolished without too much distracting theatricality for a cozy stage.
Direction from Nicole Pingon makes heavy use of silence and implication which thins the narrative into a transparent layer of the production, rather than the driving force. At times the authenticity of the two characters’ earnest misunderstanding is inelegant but not destructively so. The production strives to explore a more porous visualisation of memory where elements of worlds and realities leak into each other with varying impact. So much between the friends remains unsaid, which makes it ironic that in the moment of relinquishment, when the two are free to share their true thoughts, they become unintelligible under a cacophony of cello and drums.
In the final moments, the boundary between human and spider dissolves as King and Henderson meander into Thanos’s living room to the beat of King’s exceptional a capella vocals. This story of Thanos and Fam’s relationship closes ambiguously with much in the future to come. Spider in My Soup is a tender production that speaks to notions of time, memory, and forgiveness.
Spider in My Soup is running at Bondi Pavilion’s Gallery from July 9th – 11th as part of Bondi Feast.