“Everse” is an engaging collection of performance art pieces drawing attention to blind spots within the education system.
The audience’s journey begins in an entrance hall at Victoria Primary School. The walls are lined with yellowing photographs commemorating past milestones for the all-girls boarding school, dating back to the early 20th century.
As if taking her cue from the pictures on the walls, Chiro Nott appears, dressed as a 1920s schoolmistress. “Come along, come along! Everybody into the courtyard!” Her reprimanding demeanour echoing through the school’s austere red brick corridors conjures an eerie reminder of the conventional schooling system’s rigid, repressive roots.
Ordered into two neat lines (“Girls over here! Boys over there! Single file, everybody!”), the audience obediently follows Nott into a primary school classroom, where they are given a lesson in phonetics. Slowly pronouncing the magnetic letters Nott arranges onto a blackboard, the audience is presented with words to be absorbed and not merely sounded out.
When the lesson is over, the audience is herded to the edges of the school’s swimming pool, in which float a collection of unexplained white shapes. After several long moments, the freezing silence is broken by a splash. Ivy Kulundu-Gotz has dived into the water. One by one, the shapes are illuminated to reveal a white crib and a collection of white baubles which look like glowing jellyfish. For 20 minutes, Kulundu-Gotz laboriously swims, attempting to herd the baubles into the crib, but to no avail. They keep floating away.
The audience’s murmurs are interrupted when Nott sternly shepherds them to the balcony above the school’s tennis courts. On the courts are five young women in white tennis kits, running repetitively up and down to the familiar rhythm of the “beep test”, a fitness test used in physical education. A faceless red figure watches them from a high chair.
After the young women have retired, one by one, to a bench at the edge of the courts, the audience is granted “break time” before being dismissed. “I’ll see you again bright and early tomorrow morning!” chirps Nott.
– Michelle Avenant
See also A lesson on learning