Raphael Solarsh

Matthias Schack-Arnott proves himself a brilliant aural innovator.

Anicca at Arts House. Photograph by Bryony Jackson.


Something like a giant vinyl record crossed with a roulette wheel greets you as you enter the theatre – Matthias Shack Arnott’s most recent ear-bending musical contraption. Last year’s Fluvial saw Shack-Arnott create an open metallic cage comprised of all manner of things salvaged from a construction site. The result was piercing urban hymn that ricocheted around the skull like an unbridled thought. Annica brings more movement, a second performer and whole new suite of tricks that is more pulsating, challenging and moving that anything he’s made before.

It begins gently with sounds evoking record player static and the intrusion of distant voice and builds with carefully crafted ebbs and flows that transport you from waiting for a train at a subway station to restlessly trying to find sleep in a darkened room. Throughout, Shack-Arnott shows a singular ability to take you internally and recreate the disjointed, erratic and contemporaneous nature of free thought. But there is nothing disjointed about the experience of listening. It’s one of intuitive connection that evokes a rapid-fire stream of consciousness, pinballing from one place to another, rapidly changing pace and focus, new elements demanding attention, dissipating, reappearing; just as the myriad demands on our attention span inhibit simple, calm or linear thought.

It’s multiple-tabs-open, notification singing, high intensity chase through a pulsating city. Annica’s real intelligence comes from allowing you to escape the thronging centre but not leave it behind entirely. At moments it allows you to feel safe at home but leaves a distant urban echo that offers respite but no escape.

As with Fluvial there is deft use of simple but stark lighting, by Richard Dinnen, which transforms the spinning instrument in texture and temperature. The lighting is tuned with Germanic precision to create cones and chains of light whose bases are briefly shattered by the vibrations of struck chimes around the edge. The glowing rings and textures of the concentric circles of different components create a hypnotic aesthetic that only hastens the return journey between thought and actuality.

Schack-Arnott is matched by Eugene Ughetti of Speak Percussion and their ability to communicate, anticipate and react to each other is impressive. The constant movement of their instrument means that they not only can both play the entire thing but pass symbols, chimes and more to each other, which they do so seamlessly.

Despite no clear structure they pace the piece the beautifully, producing tactile sound capable of filling the body and winching heart into throat before letting it drop long enough to ready yourself for the next parry. Annica borders on alchemical with moments of sound, the source and mechanics of which seem incomprehensible, that push buttons in the mind that no finger, word or image can reach. It shows Matthias Schack-Arnott as a true innovator.

Rating: 4 1/2 stars out of 5 


Director, Composer, Performer: Matthias Schack-Arnott
Performer: Eugene Ughetti
Creative Engineering: Richard Allen
Video System: Pete Brundle & James Sandri (PDA)
Production Manager and Lighting: Richard Dinnen (Megafun)
Artist Interns: Jonathan Griffiths and Hamish Upton
Producer: Michaela Coventry

2 – 6 November 2016  


About the author

Raphael Solarsh is writer from Melbourne whose work has appeared in The Guardian, on Writer’s Bloc and in a collection of short stories entitled Outliers: Stories of Searching. When not seeing shows, he writes fiction and blogs at and tweets @RS_IndiLit.