2001-01-27 Mark Benecke: PostTheater's THE REAL FORENSIC
Want to do something different this weekend? How about spending an evening dissecting a dead man under the guidance of a forensic expert? NING WONG tells you more...
I MUST confess... I was feeling more than sanely excited when I heard about this theatre piece happening at The Substation this coming weekend (Jan 27 & 28). A play based on the study of the rotting dead? Rather refreshing, if you don't mind the pun. So what exactly is Post Theatre's The Real Forensic about? Well, to go on about this production, we'd have to first talk about a man - Dr Mark Benecke.
Dr Benecke, as director Max Schumacher would describe him, is the prodigy child of German science. He is known for his method of determining how long a corpse has lain undiscovered by studying the insects on it, a method which he has presented and taught all over the world. A 30-year-old biologist, no other scientist of his age has had so much media exposure - several TV shows have featured his methods and himself as a guest, and tabloid press, popular culture magazines and newspapers of all qualities have been covering Dr Benecke's life.
And so, described as a mixture of a DJ spinning music at a club (performance will be accompanied by Drum 'n' Bass and Einstuerzend Neubauten music) and a documentary theatre production about flies on dead bodies and metamorphosis, The Real Forensic is about the methods and ideas of Dr Benecke and his life as a media personality. And throughout the performance, one will realise a noticeable shift from the forensic interest in dead bodies to the social interest in the forensic expert himself.
Be prepared to be baffled by real scientific instruments, realistic props (1 dead body coming up…) and digital projections that will be employed to create the plane on which flesh meets cyberspace. And in the middle of it all, we have the lonely scientist preaching his work whilst demonstrating it on the cadaver, "played" by local Singaporean Tang Fu Kuen (whose greatest challenge for the evening would most probably be the suppression of a toe itch.)
Portraying Dr Benecke would be actor Murat Belcant who was, incidentally, working on and in a theatre production on Marc Dutroux, a Belgian paedophile cum rapist, prior to The Real Forensic. This switch in the psyche of role characters is reason enough to watch Murat's performance, made more interesting by his biomechanical approach to the study of the dead.
But why study the dead in the first place? I guess there's no one better to tell us than director Max Schumacher himself:
Who came up with the idea of writing and creating The Real Forensic?
Max: Me, when I was living in New York, met up with Dr Benecke and started debating the relevance of the body.
Was it written with specifically Dr Mark Benecke in mind?
Max: Yes, it's not just about forensic medical examination in general, but a superstar of science (in Germany at least). The text is composed out of original statements by and about Dr.Benecke.
So why did you select Dr Benecke as the subject of study?
Max: Well, Dr Benecke is not just a biologist, but a criminal biologist dealing with sex, crime and mystery, which are all part of popular entertainment. I wanted to portrait both the media view on the celebrated Dr Benecke and - as an analogy - the scientist's eye on insects, his "tiny assistants".
Why doesn't Dr Mark Benecke take up the role himself, to introduce a firsthand experience to the interested audience?
Max: Good idea! But having Murat Belcant is a privilege too. He has been performing interesting portrait performances too, and he has been working closely with Dr Benecke to learn his methods etc.
Why such an interest in forensics or dead bodies? How did such an interest come about?
Max: I got bored of living bodies. What happens to the body after life? Why is it seen as disgusting? Is there beauty in the fascination of decay? The body becomes a nourishing ground - and the examiner can read it like a crime novel.
What makes you think the audience will be intrigued by all this talk about dead bodies?
Max: There is a very living body performing, contrasting death with youthful vigor. Also you'll learn things about dead bodies you never knew.
What do you hope to achieve with a production like this?
Max: We rather hope to raise questions about media curiosity about a star. We try to show the ambivalence of examination: Can there be beauty in the macabre? Is disgust just a social convention? On an educational level - all scientific facts in the show are "water proof" as Dr Benecke was our consultant, and we only use his thoughts. So there is no "cheating" in the biology lesson we give.
Is there an age limit to this theatre piece?
Max: Not that I know. Not that I would recommend.
There you have it, if you want to learn more about how forensic experts can abstract useful information like the time or cause of death from fully decomposed bodies, and how insects can play an important role in assisting them, I guess this is the best place to start. See you at the "seminar"!
Perfomance details: Duration: January 27 & 28, 2001, Time: 8.00 pm, Venue: The Substation, 45 Armenian Street, Ticket Prices: $12 ($10 for students)