THE PANEL

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THE PANEL, A DEVASTATION CONCERNING AIDS

Sarah B. Hood

To get the full flavour of this show it would be necessary to see it several times. In his efforts to confront the audience and make its members think independently, Liitoja has not given enough through action or coherent text in certain sections to allow the first-time viewer a chance to really understand what is happening.

In an informally theatre-shaped setting the actors go through a series of sometimes synchronous actions and speeches. After an apparently disjointed opening the central action begins: a panel of seven characters sit around a table, assisted by a moderator and a judge. The rules of order are occasionally nonsensical. Members of the audience are asked to contribute to the discussion: a discussion about AIDS. At the back of the room a holistic healer concocts a brew in a blender throughout the entire play. (Holding up an ingredient, she intones its name: “beet”, while other action overlaps.) The audience, if it is brave, gets to taste the results in a Eucharistic gesture at the end of the show.

The play makes the point that we know little about AIDS. Formally its staging suggests the confusion, aggression and fear with which we face the subject. Audience members are compelled to sit unshielded by other bodies, to converse with actors, to look at erotic pictures; as we are forced to think about and deal with AIDS in our lives. Setting forth no single point of view as the correct one (although Sky Gilbert’s paean to the fallen heroes of the syndrome is more compelling than the comments of his fellow panelists), The Panel does mourn the tragedy of its ravages.

Theatrum #22

Feb/Mar 1991