Artist Richard Orjis. Picture / Supplied.

#WIRT: Artist Richard Orjis

Artist Richard Orjis on Eleanor Catton’s book The Rehearsal

In a world where the question ‘Who are you wearing?’ has become the new normal, we decided to ask the question ‘What are you reading?’ instead. In the second story of our regular #WIRT feature, we ask artist Richard Orjis to review a book he has read recently.

I’ve recently designed a garden for Eleanor Catton and her partner Steven Toussaint. While talking with Ellie one day about her week, she’d mentioned the wrap party of her debut book’s film adaptation. I went silent and just nodded in a knowing fashion. I’ve known Ellie for a few years and I was racked with guilt as The Rehearsal was meant to be holiday reading a few years ago. So I smiled through our conversation and put reading The Rehearsal on my urgent to-do list.

And I’m so happy I did; the book is a poignant observation of human behaviour and its array of teenage-girl and drama-student characters are painfully familiar.

It’s centred around the aftermath of a high school scandal, focusing on an affair between a student and her music teacher. A year later, a nearby drama school chooses to dramatise the events in their end-of-year production with an interesting intersection of the two storylines. The book is original and well crafted, with an unconventional structure, which subverts traditional linear narratives. I often enjoy the blurring of fact and fiction in art and in The Rehearsal, Catton explores this in terms of performance and performativity.

• The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton, Victoria University Press NZ (2008)

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