Sunday, 15 May 2011

Chunky Move's Connected

MAY 2011
While this is a visually stunning feast with superb dancing I found this work rather overdominated by the musical score. The concept behind the work is the amalgamation of dance (choreography by Gideon Obarzanek) and sculpture. The marvellous sculpture set designed by Reuben Margolin has a spinning wheel and loom like form with cables leading out from it that are suspended in space .( When you first enter you could perhaps imagine it as a set  for a very contemporary version of  Act 1 of ‘Sleeping Beauty ‘). If a set design can be both  light and elegant yet looming and ominous this is it. Once the work has begun one of the dancers at times changes the weights on the suspension. For one section of the performance the dancers are attached to the hanging sculpture and manipulate it, at times seemingly threatened by it, or under it , or inside it. The graph like hanging part of the sculpture seems to breathe, undulate and ripple as it is manipulated – or has its own mind and hovers over the dancers .In the second movement especially , where the dancers are attached to the sculpture , the performers become mathematical formulae link into the grid .
There is a fabulous trio that becomes a magnificent pas de deux where Macindoe seduces and is seduced by Palomeres – chin on shoulder or elbow for example then lots of snaky moves and spiky fingers .
In the second half of the work we have voice overs of transcripts of interviews of art gallery guards about their job of being art gallery security guards at times full of wry humour. The dancers march stiffly around in blocks and do flight attendant like angular movements.
‘Connected’’s rather jarring, crackly and insistent score is by sound artist Robin Fox ( who composed the score for  ‘Mortal  Engine’ as well )and Oren Ambarchi.  It interacts with Benjamin Cisterne’s glorious lighting to create synaesthesia which transforms sound into light- another form of sculpture.
From the opening explosive crash and extraordinary solo by Stephanie Lake there is a series of solos, duets and fleeting trios that are fast, intense, fluid and organic. At times the choreography was based on whirling circles , sometimes it was machinery-like ( reminiscent perhaps of the 1903’s Germans Expressionists?) In the last section there are massive waves of movement.
Is the work about ‘The Art of Seeing ‘ ? Kinetic  sculpture? Dancers as images on a computer graph ? (think of ‘Glow’ and ‘Mortal Engine’ here) .Like Wheeldon and Macgregor Obarzanek has long been fascinated  by the combination of dance, science and maths . Given the arts gallery security guard voice overs  this work could also be read as being ‘about’ ‘what is art ‘.
An at times breathtaking amalgamation of dance and sculpture.
Running time – just under an hour

Australian Ballet 15 Minutes of Fame Workshop

Guess what !  I have danced on stage at the Opera House and learnt some of ‘Checkmate’
There were about 25 of us of all shapes and sizes. Some of the participants were obviously dance students with Bloch bags and gear, some not .This time we learnt the black pawns dance from de Valois ‘Checkmate’. A most wonderful time was had by all. For those of us with dance training – marvellous !
Once we had been signed in , dumped our gear in the first few rows of the stalls , changed our shoes ( or not – some wore socks, some had ballet shoes ) and were on stage ,Colin Peasley – the Ballet’s Artist in Residence and Red King in the current production-  gave us some back ground information about the ballet ( the first production was in 1937)and some fascinating facts  for example de Valois lived in three centuries , told stories of how the original sets and costumes had to be left behind when the Sadlers Wells Ballet ( as it was then – now the Royal Ballet ) had to be evacuated from Holland and how the work was given to the Australian Ballet in 1986 in honour of Sir Robert Helpmann ( his last performances were in 1986 as the Red King in this work ) .We also  learnt that it was only in 1986 that gloves as part of the costumes for the pawns were reintroduced for the first time since the 1937 production.
With Stuart Macklin on piano Kismet Bourne  then taught us some of the steps of the black pawns dance  (glissade, tendu - repeat three times ,changement etc ). The difference between the black and red pawns were stressed as they have distinctly separate arm movements for example. We were lucky enough to have the special chequerboard floor as part of the set ( by E McKnight  Kauffer) still down to dance on ( ‘Checkmate’ was the last work of the matinee that had just finished) and  the’ flats ‘ surrounding us . We rehearsed and repeated several times learning small segments and then putting i t all together ran through it several times. Sometimes we faced the front of the auditorium, sometimes we turned and faced the Red King’s throne at the back. The final pose had some of us older, stiifer people standing rather than gracefully posed on the floor. Towards the end Colin showed us some of the hats worn by some of the characters in the ballet (eg the Black Queen, the Red Knight etc ).He talked about the costume preservation and conservation and how some of them are very awkward and difficult to wear.
Then we rehearsed the dance one last time following behind Colin and Kismet and then they watched us perform it. Then alas we had to leave as the stage had to be set for the evening performance.  
A wonderfully challenging and exciting time .

Monday, 2 May 2011

Belvoir The Business

here's my review of Belvoir's The Business

                                      THE BUSINESS
                              BELVOIR ST      APRIL/MAY 2011

The knives are out.Under the excellent direction of Cristabel Sved Belvoir brings us a shocking,compelling play. Based on the 1910 play Vassa Zheleznova by Maxim Gorky, Jonathan Gavin has translated and transposed it to 1980's suburban Australia. It's all about the intense imploding of a greedy,toxic family's relationships. It is extremely dark and 'over the top' at times, yet also savage and ironic with lots of strong language.
As her husband Bill lies dying unseen just offstage, Van ( Sarah Peirse) and her children are circling like vultures, all wanting their specific share of The Business as outlined in Bill's will . As the various family members bicker, scheme, scramble and dream their way into positions of power in their glitzy palazzo they discover that the company is on very shaky foundations. The enemy is within and terrible family secrets are revealed and others quietly covered up. 
A programme note suggests that this a ‘missing work in Australia’s dramatic canon ‘ but as another of my colleagues has mentioned David Williamson, Louis Nowra and Stephen Sewell have written about it at the time . 
The cast is excellent with terrific performances all round but at times I got the feeling there was a lack of cohesiveness at times,a striving for way over the top exageration, almost caricature . However it was most effective.  
As Van, dominating , scheming matriarch of the family, Peirse is terrific as she coldly manipulates events, striving to hang on to The Business so that it won't be transferred to her disolute, feckless children. In defeating them she commits a few illegalities on the way.
As younger son Ronald, who has been teased and tormented all his life because of his cerebal palsy and suddenly snaps, Thomas Henning gives an incredibly high octane explosive performance. His wife Jennifer, who has been sleeping with his uncle Gary is terrifically played by stunning Kylie Minogue look alike Jody Kennedy. Is she really the blonde bimbo she pretends to be ?
As spoilt playboy brat Simon ( John Leary) and his 'fat slut' of a wife Natalie (Samantha Young ) give deliciously catty over the top performances. As the monstrous couple they expect things to drop into their laps - they want to live the good life lazing around, go to mega parties, do drugs, ( there is a terrible scene where they snort coke at Bill's wake),meet famous people and just enjoy themselves. Simon wants a yacht as part of the settlement and has much fun playing with a toy remote control car. He also has a great scene at breakfast deciding on a croissant and Fruit Loops ! And Young as Natalie has a terrifically awful scene where she spies on Jennifer and Gary (craggy faced Russell Kiefel) .   
Everything changes when estranged sister Anna ( cool,leggy, elegant Kate Box) arrives,the opposite of her brother and sisters . Does she really want a reconciliation with her father and the rest of the family on Bill's deathbed or has she materialised solely to obtain her share of the will ? She joins her mother in scheming wheeling and dealing to ensure her share.
Outsider lawyer Michael (Grant Dodwell) appears to be the only relatively moral person – or is he?
Victoria Lamb’s set is extremely evocative of the 1980’s – kitschy posh elegance with a chequered rug on the floor, sliding windows out to the patio, vertical drapes, a typewriter for Van and general family clutter.
All of which chimes in brilliantly with the 80’s soundtrack devised by Max Lyandvert. 
A savage, biting black comedy about society’s greeds and needs.

Running time - 2 hours 15 ( approx.) including interval


Audience Health

A thought for theatre managers/owners to consider . A plea from a theatre /dance critic who is very susceptible to colds and flu. Given the return of the drenching winter rains and sudden freezing storms , if we audience members arrive totally soaked with soggy shoes and socks ( let alone clothes and hair) why is it not possible to temporarily borrow a hairdryer to dry our squelchy cold and wet feet ?
For those of us prone to colds and flu it is enormously awkward - the last thing we want/need is to sit uncomfortably for about two or three hours with cold wet feet in damp clothes – perfect conditions for developing colds/flu and passing it to/from others. What about actors/singers attending a show on their day off ? Also I do not need or want to be forced to take yet another two weeks off as sick leave because of a cold or flu . I shouldn’t need to start carrying an extra pair of shoes and socks with me !.
Some theatres have paper towels in the amenities - not much help !.I should not have to cloak my sopping shoes and sit for three hours in damp socks .
Surely as a matter of audience health it would be possible to organize access to hairdryers ?You could possibly even make quite a bit of money if you charged say $5 a turn for use. At the larger theatres especially ( eg the Capitol, Lyric at Star City, Sydney Opera House, Theatre Royal for starters) surely something could be organized with for example the wardrobe departments ?

What do other people think ?