Welcome to Sydney Cove, 1809.
Lady Putland has found herself imprisoned for standing by her father, the treacherous Governor of New South Wales.
This is the world set up for us by Peach Productions’ The Lady in the Barracks, at the Actor’s Pulse in Redfern for the term of just under 90 minutes.
Before the show begins, I grab my tickets from the box office. The Actor’s Pulse is humble, intimate and charmingly claustrophobic. Guests swarm on the busy street outside, cramming pizza and Turkish pide into their mouths before going in.
The stage itself is surprisingly even smaller. Three rows of seats line the back of the room with some reserved spots for the keen and cultured. White and beige curtains drape the back of the stage, framing a man in a militia redcoat sitting patiently behind a mesh screen, his gaze examining the audience. Copper pots, crockery and gaslight lanterns sit on the shelves. In the centre is a modest wooden table.
An in-depth knowledge of colonial history isn’t needed to grasp this tale of reputation, riot and rum. I am so enveloped in the world by the hour mark that I’ve picked sides, am in on the drama, and am rooting against all the “blasted sons of bitches” doing Putland and her family name wrong.
Like Lady Putland, we audience are also trapped in the stuffy, stressful room, living the minutiae of represented historical moments unfolding in real time.
There’s a live percussionist who bangs his drum every so often. It’s extremely ear-piercing. At one point an audience member grumbles, “Jesus, that hurts!”, much to the amusement and empathy of everyone around her.
Back on the street outside, it’s time to be transported to another dimension - that of augmented reality.
Our next destination is two stations and a small walk away. INSA’s GIF-ITI exhibition can be found in the middle of World Square, wedged between a noodle restaurant and bank.
At first glance there are some Vivid-esque projections on the stairs, and passersby who walk up these are enveloped by colour and immediately merge into the art. Meanwhile, back on the floor are two double-sided installations covered with psychedelic prints.
Instructions nearby state that in order to experience the exhibition fully, I need to download the GIF-ITI app (those with low data caps should download the app at home, as there doesn’t appear to be wifi available). A pop-up box on my phone screen coos for me to wait awhile as installing “can take some time”.
It’s chillier now. Wind buffets the installations, rippling them towards me in a plea for patience and perseverance.
When the application finally loads, I hold up the back camera to the images in front of me. Static becomes motion as the artworks all breathe life. Objects spin, people talk and patterns evolve in front of my eyes.
There are eight artworks in total in INSA’s GIF-ITI, it’s free and it’s running the entire duration of the Sydney Fringe. Definitely worth an augmented look.
Written by Millie Roberts