Update (June 3): This event was changed to reflect Rising's cancellation.
Many people heralded last year’s lockdown as the creative opportunity they’d been waiting for.
“Shakespeare wrote King Lear during the plague,” was a regular refrain on social media.
Most of us didn’t realise our great ambitions, but for artists Roslyn Oades and Robert Scott, the result was an audio piece, The Nightline. It’s the Melbourne edition of their original Sydney prototype – and it makes its physical debut at Rising.
For most of 2020, the long-term collaborators ran a hotline between midnight and 6am, encouraging those awake to call and leave an anonymous message. More than 600 were recorded, with 34 regular callers.
“It’s overwhelming how open-hearted people have been,” Oades says. “From insomniacs and night owls, to shift workers, new parents … The things people say under the cover of darkness when they’re anonymous is personal. It’s very intimate – almost like a monologue, or a secular prayer.”
Visitors to The Nightline enter a dark, library-like room and huddle at intimate listening stations, sharing the glow of white, mushroom-shaped lamps and holding old-timey rotary phones held to their ears. The phones sit “whispering” until they’re picked up.
“It’s a sort of alive thing you can plug into,” Oades says.
The 600 recordings have been distilled into a 40-minute experience that spans everything from a man reliving a traumatic break-in, to a father singing to his child.
As a night owl herself, Oades was curious to learn more about Melbourne’s nocturnal community. “I love night walking and I’m always curious to see one window lit up like mine in a block of flats, wondering who else is awake,” she says.
The opening scene of the Dylan Thomas play Under Milk Wood was a further inspiration. “The Nightline is kind of like that, but instead of going into the dreams of the sleepers, you’re switching between the voices of the sleepless.”
From 8pm–2am. The experience runs for 40 minutes.