The War Inside, VAULT Festival

by Laura Kressly

Marnie promised herself she would never go for a poo in the school toilets, but her bowels have had other ideas lately. As she’s dealing with this embarrassment and worrying about her health, we get insight into her innards, where white blood cells are waging war on her colon. This is conveyed by an audio narration focusing on a brand-new cell getting to grips with their job, guiding listeners through the human anatomy and what happens when the body attacks itself.

Each listener is led to a ‘listening pod’ – a curtained cubicle with pink drapes, a pile of cushions, fleshy blobs of foam and stringy bits hang from the ceiling. It clearly evokes the inside of the body and is surprisingly cosy. Given the majority of the story is set in Marnie’s vascular and digestive systems, it’s an apt design choice albeit a literal one.

The story that unfolds over the headphones given on entry is heavily didactic and easy to follow. Internal organs and cells are anthropomorphised and Marnie is far less prominent that the introduction suggests, which highlights the body’s inner workings rather our negotiations with them. It’s well-suited for younger secondary school students; the science is basic and engagingly conveyed as the starring white blood cell, called Ross, figures out what their role is. Though simple, it’s well-performed and sonically designed, but definitely more suitable for children and wants for detailed insight on living with chronic illness. Ultimately one part of a larger project – also consisting of a community tapestry, a live performance, and an installation – there’s scope for chronic illness to be more fully explored.

The War Inside runs through 12 March.

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