While the individual performances were great and the concept behind the production were exciting (corporate greed and excess, selling your soul for the company), I am afraid this show just does not quite work.
White collar workaholic Tony Reggio (Diego Retamules), 25Eight’s protagonist is a profit commander who works twenty five hours a day, eight days a week. His employer, a giant international company The United Synergies Corporation, doubled Tony’s salary and productivity by splitting ( ‘bifurcating’ ) his body and soul. Can Tony somehow persuade the new USC profit commander (his ex, Numera Jinksy) to escape with him from the new, cold twenty-five eight corporate reality ?!
Mr Factotum (curly haired, bearded and moustachioed Richard Hilliar in a posh grey suit) has a weird almost robotic monologue towards the start of the show when he parrots answers to Tony’s questions.
It is odd and ominous that he has no real proof of ID. and rambles on about the Beatles, Arthur Miller and so on. We see him gradually become more and more ‘human’ as time goes on. Tony calls him ‘Conrad’ but we eventually learn his real name is Christopher.
The CEO, who turns out to be Mr Factotum’s adoptive father, is excellently played by David Attrill. To him the company is everything and all he cares about is economic profits and keeping the shareholders happy. He is always concerned about inefficiency and coldly demands that Jinsky murder her ex lover Reggio – but she doesn’t and then his own attempt to kill Reggio fails .
Is his rather O.T.T. almost Shakespearean sacrifice toward the end necessary? It does drive the point home but is this needed? And why the unnecessary air guitar? Yes it is linked in with the Beatles ‘ A Hard Day’s Night’ and ‘Eight Days a Week ‘ , but doesn’t really take us anywhere!
Natalie Lopes gives a terrific performance as Numera, who has a hidden secret life. Will she be bifurcated and survive? Will she face corporate greed and change herself and the company, or will all remain the same? Her red and black outfit is quite dramatic and there is obvious symbolism when she finally shrugs into her black blazer.
Vince Vozzo’s graffiti like backdrop on the wall of the tiny stage includes a depiction of the Beatles, the beauties of Sydney Harbour and the allegory of selling your soul to the devil.
Individually the performances were great and the idea behind the show was good but I think possibly at least partly the problem is Valentino Museco’s script, which the director Ira Hal Siedenstein, the actors and audience at times valiantly struggle with. Were they attempting to play the material as a dark farce? Perhaps a little reworking is required?!
Much credit for the effort however this was and unsatisfying and disappointing production.
25EIGHT, with a running time of 90 minutes straight through, opened at the Tap Gallery, 278 Palmer Street, Darlinghurst on Tuesday 11th December and plays until Saturday 22nd December, 2012.
Tags: Sydney Theatre Reviews- 25Eight, Tap Gallery Darlinghurst, Diego Retamules, Richard Hilliar, David Attrill, Natalie Lopes. Vince Vozzo, Valentino Museco, Ira Siedenstein, Sydney Arts Guide, Lynne Lancaster
Based in NSW’s Illawarra region, Austinmer Dance Theatre is led by teacher and choreographer Michelle Forte, who made a welcoming introductory speech at this short season at Coniston’s Phoenix Theatre prior to the performance proper. uNCOILEd, which Forte hopes will become an annual event, is part of the company’s 2012 season, which was dedicated to the memory of their colleague Nicole Louise Fitzsimons who passed away tragically earlier this year .
Metamorphosis, choreographed by Molly Erin Fitzpatrick, was an intriguing, exciting pas de deux featuring considerable unison work. This strong work also featured use of a high demi-pointe, arabesques, great jumps, and a particular way of using the back, quite sculptural and frieze-like in parts. The dancers were clad in beautiful blue dresses.
While We Wait was a sharp, tense and dramatic quartet set to an ominous, eerie soundtrack. Forte’s choreography demanded a very articulate back, a sizzling line and sharp flicks of movement.
Claustrophobia, choreographed by Melissa Jane Pinn, was strong and powerful. The cast danced clad in wonderfully textured and layered black costumes, in a work which featured assorted repeated phrases of movement, sometimes individual, sometimes followed by the group, with the use often of a deep Graham plie and an angular feel to the choreography. Some of the choreography was machine-like and at one point reminiscent of a snippet of Macmillan’s The Rite of Spring; the way a member of the group was isolated and chosen for death reinforced this impression.
For me the least successful work was the most hyped – the specially commissioned Sanbiki No Kashkoi Saru, choreographed by Maurice Causey. The bird/floral dresses were pretty, but it didn’t really go anywhere or do anything choreographically memorable. The work as a whole was overwhelmed by the strange beeping, breathing, gurgling voice soundtrack. There is a Time, another piece choreographed by Forte, brought the evening to a close. Also featuring a maddening, pulsating soundtrack, this work boasted terrific short, liquid solos, some intriguing partnering and duets, and disjointed, repeated phrases of movement. It was quite intense and demanded sharp jumps and explosive runs as well as strong unison work .
Also included in the program were four short ‘interludes’ – improvised solos with the dancers in white shirt and black bra and pants. These were most impressive, combining a range of moods (joyous to melancholy) and a varied range of music and dance styles.
Overall, uNCOILEd featured excellent performances in a great program of new work. This is a company and dancers to watch.
Rating: 3 ½ stars out of 5
uNCOILEd Austinmer Dance Theatre Choreographers: Molly Erin Fitzpatrick, Michelle Forte, Melissa Jane Pinn and Maurice Causey Dancers: Molly Fitzpatrick, Melissa Jane Pinn, Olivia Hutchinson Smith, Jodie Toogood, Sophie Wighton, Rhiannon Davies
This year’s eagerly awaited production by Pinchgut Opera was the Australian premiere of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Castor and Pollux (the revised 1754 version rather than the 1737 original). The singing was excellent, and the Baroque music (played on mostly period instruments by the Orchestra of the Antipodes under the dynamic leadership of Antony Walker) was exquisite and ravishing.
Rameau (1683-1764) was a French composer who wrote for the court; at one point of his career he was known more as a music theoretician than a composer. He wrote both opera and ballets, among other works (he only started writing operas at age 50); the Sydney Dance Company and the ACO used his work in Project Rameau earlier this year.
Castor and Pollux is based on a complicated Greco-Roman myth and tells a story of fraternal love, betrayal, and transformation into celestial bodies. The immortal Pollux (Hadleigh Adams) and mortal Castor (Jeffrey Thompson), twin sons of Jupiter, are both in love with Princess Telaire, who returns Castor’s love. Castor is killed in battle, protecting Telaire from a possible abduction. Pollux travels to the Underworld and offers to take his brother’s place among the dead. After a passionate debate over who will live or die, the brothers are reunited in a sort of happy ending as Jupiter transforms both of them into the constellation of Gemini.
The Pinchgut production has a sparse, futuristic, geodesic dome set, almost like a space station on the moon, and also features a very high platform for Jupiter’s imposing appearance. The set also features large black benches that are shifted at various points of the performance, representing the banks of the Styx, court chairs, etc.
The women wore long, Greco- Roman shifts, mostly in grey-blue although the character of Phoebe wore red and Telaire gold. The chorus of men mostly wore blue shirts and dark trousers. Castor and Pollux were dressed darkly alike, with sparkly trousers.
The chorus (Cantillation) are in effect a strong character themselves, with splendid singing. At various times they represented courtiers in the palace, nymphs or shepherds, and also the writhing veiled demons of the Underworld. The two dancers (Sean Marcs and Adam Murray) gave great performances, representing wrestlers and celebrity athletes. Ash Bee’s choreography was stylized, with lots of formal frieze- like elements. Cantillation at one point performed a round dance of celebration, and there is a sultry performance by the female members as the Pleasures.
Jeffrey Thompson as Castor was most impressive. At times he had a silken yet reptilian way of moving. His ‘Ah amour’ was a big joyous show-off solo and his duet towards the end with Pollux was marvellous. His ‘Sejour de l’eternalle paix’ was sorrowful, lyrical and yearning.
His brother, darkly handsome Pollux, King of Sparta, was sensationally played by Hadleigh Adams. He was sweetly tempted by the pleasures of the Elysian Fields that his father conjured up but determined to rescue his brother. His solo in Act One, insisting he will bring his brother back (‘Non c’est en vain' and then shortly after ‘Present des Dieux’) were brilliant.
As Jupiter, Paul Goodwin-Groen was tall and imposing in white and gold. He was dramatically lit from below, and sang spectacularly.
Princess Telaire (Celeste Lazarenko) was stunning in a very rich gold dress and tiara. She sang excellently, handling the challenging, showy arias of impassioned loveliness and grief superbly. Every inch a princess, her ‘Tristes apprets’ was magnificent.
Bitter Phoebe, who can summon the spirits of the dead, was impressively sung by Margaret Plummer.
Mention must also be made of Pascal Herington as the athlete whose solo ‘Fieres trompettes’ comes early in the show; he also played a lively Mercure, compete with wings. Anna Fraser’s performance as Cleone/A follower of Hebe, and A Spirit was also excellent.
Another exciting production by the wonderful Pinchgut Opera.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Pinchgut Opera present Castor and Pollux Music: Jean-Phillipe Rameau Libretto: Pierre-Joseph Bernard (1754 version) Conductor: Antony Walker Director: Kate Gaul Music Preparation: Erin Helyard Assistant Director: Paulo Montoya Choreographer: Ash Bee Set Designer: Andy McDonnell Costume Designer: Jasmine Christie Lighting Designer: Luiz Pampolha With the Orchestra of the Antipodes and Cantillation Cast: Jeffrey Thompson, Hadleigh Adams, Celeste Lazarenko, Margaret Plummer, Anna Fraser, Pascal Herrington, Mark Donnelly and Paul Goodwin-Groen Running time: 2 hours 50 mins (approx) including interval
City Recital Hall Angel Place, Sydney 6 – 10 December
Michele Lansdown gives a great performance as Norma Desmond
Lavish, lush and incredibly spectacular Willoughby Theatre Company has brought us a magnificent production of this Lloyd Webber musical.
Enter the world of the movies of the 1930’s to the 1950’s .The show opens in the style of a Hollywood blockbuster , introductory credits screening on the front curtain. Based on the iconic 1950’s film starring Gloria Swanson and William Holden it is a murder mystery in classic film noir style, told in flashback by the victim Joe as narrator. This show requires a HUGE amount of extras/chorus , especially for the Paramount studio scenes and Willoughby Theatre Company does not disappoint.
The plot centres on Norma Desmond , a faded superstar of the silent movie age , now lonely and reclusive, forlornly awaiting a call from the great Cecil B. De Mille to return to the screen for her adoring fans . She unexpectedly meets Joe Gillis, an impoverished writer, and sees in him her last chance to make a come back with a remake of SALOME that she has scripted herself. Joe is dragooned into helping adjust and rewrite the script and become Norma’s latest toy-boy.
The orchestra , hidden in the pit , are excellent under the stirling conducting of Greg Jones. Lloyd-Webber’s music in this show is a cross between opera/classical and rock – if you listen closely you can hear tiny phrases similar to sections from ‘Evita’, ‘Phantom of the Opera’, ’Jesus Christ Superstar’ and ‘Aspects of Love’.
In some ways it is a ‘verisimo opera’ for our times. Sometimes the lush, flowing music is a trifle repetitive and there are a number of reprises to drive the points home. Norma has a leitmotif drawn from her first solo, ‘Surrender’.
The huge sets by Simon Greer, especially Norma’s huge white house, are exquisite. Of particular note is the huge fireplace and mirror in Norma’s house and The Staircase for her entrances/exits. And i loved the elegant huge car she has. The huge hangars of the Paramount studio were also great. What I did find distracting was the visible use of the cast as scene changing crew, but one became used to it.
As our leading man and narrator young blonde, handsome Morgan Cleary as Joe Gillis the writer was excellent .He was in fine voice and gave a magnificent performance .Joe holds the key to all the assorted tangled relationships in the show and helps glue the twisted plot together.
The mysterious, enigmatic Max von Mayerling , part butler, chauffeur , general dogsbody , ex movie director – and Norma’s first husband - was marvellously played by Patricio Ulloa always appropriately elegantly dressed with white or black gloves . He is devoted to Norma and oozes protective menace. His leitmotif is ‘The Greatest Star of All’ sung in a terrific baritone (almost tenor ) .
The leading lady Norma Desmond, is a role to die for, and Michele Lansdown seizes it and makes it her own. In a knockout , ravishing performance she is the reclusive fading screen queen . Norma is a fragile control freak, with huge eyes and glorious voice she dominates the stage from her opening ‘Surrender’ and the following ‘With One Look’ has the audience in the palm of her hand. At times, at home alone with no wig or makeup, she is fragile and pitiful and, at other times , she is imposing and luminous.
Her descent into madness at the end, with one of the most famous quotes in cinema history , is chilling and a stunning performance that totally grabs you. And oh…the fabulous costumes!! Norma is always in Beardsley like elegant black and white assorted stunning costumes designed by Joy Sweeney.The final outfit, dripping pearls and with a silver cape, is one of the many highlights.
Betty Schaeffer , who collaborates with Joe on a script and ends up falling in love with him, is a sweet pretty yet feisty young woman marvellously played by Elizabeth Garrett .She shines in her duet with Joe ‘ Too Much in Love to Care ‘ and before that the ‘Boy Meets Girl’ parts one and two .
While there were perhaps a few small technical glitches- opening night nerves perhaps- which I am sure will be fixed, this is a glorious, stunning production not to be missed.
The Willoughby Theatre Company’s production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s SUNSET BOULEVARDE, directed by Simon Greer and Andrew Castle, opened at The Concourse Chatswood on Friday November 16 and runs until Saturday November 24, 2012.
The much-loved family musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has been spectacularly transferred to the stage of Sydney’s Capitol Theatre, and received an ecstatic standing ovation from an almost full house at the gala premiere on Saturday night.
Based on the treasured family movie of 1968, which itself was loosely based on Ian Fleming’s 1964 children’s novel, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang tells the story of Caratacus Potts (David Hobson); a widowed, eccentric inventor who lives with his two children, Jeremy and Jemima, and his elderly, equally eccentric father. After seeing the children playing in a junkyard with an old rusted car, Potts buys the vehicle and rebuilds it – making some improvements of his own along the way and dubbing the car ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’.
As the story unfolds the car is revealed to possess a number of unique qualities – not the least of which is the ability to fly.
Soon the Potts meet leading lady Truly Scrumptious (Rachel Beck), who accompanies the family on a picnic and helps them rescue Grandpa Potts and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang from the clutches of the evil Baron and Baroness Bomburst of Vulgaria. Along the way we meet an evil Childcatcher and a pair of silly spies, while enjoying various enchanting and exuberant musical numbers, before the story eventually – as such stories do – ends happily and well.
Technically, this is a truly impressive production, featuring some magnificent stage effects – not only Chitty Chitty Bang Bang herself, but also several of Potts’ many inventions.
The cast is excellent, and as Hobson and Beck especially are such splendid singers, the show has quite an operatic feel in parts – an impression which is added to by the huge chorus of ‘lost’ children in Act Two.
Caratacus Potts is magnificently played by David Hobson (making the switch from opera to musical theatre); he carries the show superbly and steals the scene every chance he gets. Special mention must be made of the glorious way he sings ‘Hushabye Mountain’ and throws himself into the rollicking ‘Me Ol’ Bamboo’.
Rachel Beck is sweetly elegant, feisty and determined as the show’s romantic interest. Her ‘Lovely, Lonely Man’ and ‘Doll on a Music Box’ are sensational.
Peter Carroll has a wonderful time as the gruff, charming Grandpa Potts, especially in the songs ‘Posh’ and ‘The Roses of Success ‘
Comic relief was provided by audience favourites, the ridiculous spies Boris and Goran (George Kapinairis and Todd Goddard) who appear in assorted ‘disguises’ and silly situations.
Much fun was had by the marvellously petulant and childish Baron Bomburst of Vulgaria (Alan Brough) and his scheming, narcissistic, delightfully wicked, child-hating wife, the Baroness (Jennifer Vuleric ). They were resplendent in red costumes, and displayed excellent comic timing in their delicious ‘Chu-Chi Face’.
Hold tightly and protectively onto your children when Tyler Coppin as the devilish Childcatcher is around. He is brilliantly, malevolently evil, quite frightening at times, and has a spectacular solo.
Caratacus Potts’ children Jeremy and Jemima were enchantingly played by Max Walburn and Ashleigh Ross.
Dana Jolly’s choreography sparkles throughout.
While Chitty Chitty Bang Bang herself behaved beautifully (and received several curtain calls at the end of the evening) there were a few minor technical hitches on opening night, but the audience mostly ignored them and surrendered to having a marvellous time.
A terrific musical, and much fun for everyone (though given its long running time, evening performances many not be ideal for very small children).
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Music and lyrics by Richard M Sherman and Robert B Sherman Adapted for the stage by Jeremy Sams and Ray Roderick Directed by Roger Hodgman Musical director/conductor: Peter Casey Sound design: Kelvin Gedye Scenic and costume designer: Anthony Ward Lighting designer: Matt Scott Choreographer: Dana Jolly Cast includes: David Hobson, Rachel Beck, Alan Brough, Jennifer Vuleric, George Kapinairis, Peter Carroll, Todd Goddard, Tyler Coppin, Max Walburn, Ashleigh Ross, Philip Gould, Tony Farrell and Sonia Carter Running time: 2 hours 40 mins (approx) including one interval
Capitol Theatre, Sydney 17 November 2012 – 13 January 2013
A magnificent revival of an Australian classic. Pic Bob Seary
Enormous fun was had by all in this magnificent revival of the Nick Enright/Terence Clark classic THE VENETIAN TWINS.
Now regarded as an Australian classic, this play, originally performed in 1979, is an adaptation of the great eighteenth century Goldoni play. What is interesting to note is that there was a revival of this show in Canberra recently and that the National Theatre’s ‘One Man Two Governors’, another adaptation of the same play, is touring next year, in Sydney as part of the Sydney Theatre Company main subscription season.
This production, as directed by Mackenzie Steele, harks back to the eighteenth century original with the use of wonderful masks, white-face and the use of stock commedia del arte characters ( the daughter, the father, the villain, the lover…) and Arlecchino and Colombina (aka Harlequin and Columbine).
What is also most effective is the set design by Sean Minehan .In some ways it is as if they are an itinerant troupe of strolling players traveling around small Australian country towns, with torn hessian bags featuring as part of the set.
There is also excellent use of several lara ge mirrors and frames on wheels and fabulous ‘old fashioned’ lighting by Matthew Marshall, with dramatic lighting from underneath at times, as if by footlights.
The silly, complicated and confusing plot ( which Shakespeare would have loved) involves twins , marriage plans , greed , lockets , lost siblings and murder… Very briefly it can be summarised as follows: a pair of identical twin brothers, one , Tonino , is swashbuckling , smooth and a sophisticated city dweller, the other , Zanetto , is a country yokel, gauche and naive. Unbeknownst to each other they arrive in the same town, somewhere in the region of Goondiwindi.
Hilarious chaos ensues with confusion and disguise, but eventually the youthful heroes prevail , the pompous spoilsports and delightful villain receive their just deserts , true love ensues and all ends happily ever after .
The script has some intentionally bad puns and very witty fast paced dialogue as well as including some audience participation. The score, finely played by the orchestra hidden behind a commedia dell arte diamond lozenge design like screen, is in fact quite difficult in parts. It ranges over a large variety of styles , from catchy tuneful sing-alongs ( eg ‘Back to Jindywaraback’) to Gilbert and Sullivan, music hall (‘Hiss the villain’) , the heavy German Expressionism of Brecht/Weill ( eg ‘The Ballad of Middle Class Tenacity’ ) and Mozart opera ( eg Beatrice’s solo) There are also stylistic hints of major musicals such as ‘ Cabaret ‘and ‘A Chorus Line'. In the dual role of Tonino/Zanetto, James Jay Moody is magnificent .He is in fine voice, rubbery of expression and has a fabulous whale of a time confusing us as both the brothers , elegant in a brocaded jacket or sadly playing a red guitar .
The villain of the piece, Pancrazio , was brilliantly played by Dean Vince. He was tall, bald and elegantly snake like in a Bakstian red and pink coloured outfit and had terrific fun hypnotizing the audience with his superb stage presence in ‘Hiss the villain’ . Sensational.
As seemingly refined elegant Beatrice in a blue dress with a detachable train and pink bows, Marissa-Clare Berzins was marvellous. She is caught up in a very tricky situation and has great fun stealing the show with her operatic solos.
Bespectacled, very prim and proper, Rosina the judges’ daughter ( or is she ?! ) is terrifically played by Meagan Caretti .
Arlecchino is excellently played by Zac Jardine as a cheeky opinionated servant who does, underneath it all , cares for his master . His delightful duet with his sweetheart/fiance Colombina (sort of dressed as a punk Goth fairy crossed with a French maid) , played enchantingly by Debra Bryan, was enchanting (‘Everybody needs a little mate’ ) .
Florindo a young, elegant and sophisticated man desperately in love with Beatrice, was played by handsome bearded young Hugo Weaving look alike Stephan Anderson, who was in magnificent voice.
Yong blonde, handsome, rather foppish Lelio, who turns out to be the judge’s nephew, is terrifically played by Andy Johnston.
The judge himself is stalwartly played by Peter Flett who performs ‘The Ballad of Middle Class Tenacity’ with great verve and style . This was a great production that was thoroughly enjoyed.
MacKenzie Steele’s production of THE VENETIAN TWINS, with a running time of just over two hours including one interval, opened at the New Theatre, 542 King Street, Newtown on Thursday 15th November and runs until Saturday 15th December, 2012.
Nic Gibney, Matthew Gent and Michael Bungen in 'PIRATES'. Pic Lisa Tomasetti
Ahoy me hearties! One of the best of the many versions I have seen, this is a fresh, sparkling version of the Gilbert and Sullivan classic that I think G and S would have greatly enjoyed.
The twist in Sasha Regan’s production is that the entire cast is male. As is pointed out in the programme, this in some ways turns everything ‘topsy turvy’ and makes one concentrate even more on the plot and characterisation. Yes there can be read into it lots of ‘gay’ overtones but it can also be extremely funny and very moving in parts.
This is a fast paced production with no allowance for encores in the usual show stopping places (especially ‘With cat like tread’ for example ) .What is also crucially important in these G& S operettas is precise diction , not just orphan/often but the Major-General’s patter song for instance, and in this version it was excellent.
The entrance of Major-General Stanley’s wards was delightful. The corsetry and long white skirts were fabulous. Visually the predominant colour for both ladies and pirates in this production was white or variations thereof (perhaps representing their innocence?).
The sparse, minimalist set design mostly consisted of a few crates/boxes /steps and stylized clouds. Unusual, very effective use was made of torches and lighting from beneath for ‘With cat like tread’.
Technically and musically the production was superb with glorious singing from all. Alan Richardson as Mabel especially , in the difficult coloratura sections,(‘ Poor wandering one’ ) was magnificent .And Adam Vaughan as the police sergeant has a fine gravelly bass. What was also of interest is that this version uses no orchestra but instead an amplified piano, sparklingly played by Michael England.
There were magnificent performances by all of the ensemble and splendid acting. The production was warm, witty and hilarious in some parts (especially some of the sight gags with Ruth).
Our hero, young curly haired Frederick, the ‘slave of duty’ was brilliantly played and sung by handsome Matthew Gent - a fine performance . Alan Richardson as Mabel was astonishing and superb. Their duet ‘ All is prepared ‘ was glorious and heartbreaking - you could have heard a pin drop .
Our devilishly delightful pirate king was terrifically played by Nic Gibney, with tattoos and a faint Johnny Depp influence. He was in fine voice and captivating.
Ruth, the piratical maid of all work, was exquisitely played by Joseph Houston . Tall and lanky she was incredibly touching in a sad finale to Act1. Bravo. Both Houston and Gibney have a whale of a time in ‘A Paradox’ among other sections.
Major-General Stanley was magnificently played by Neil Moors. He was resplendent in a red jacket with epaulettes (very British army) and there were some sections where he was rather like a master of the hunt - using a broom as a hobby horse, with some risqué visual jokes with Ruth. ( Interesting- in most productions at the end Ruth is courted by the Sarg, but here it looks like the Major- General wants her for himself) .
In this production the rubbery knock kneed police all have various oversize mustaches as masks .They all wore light blue shirts and white torn shorts, save for the Sergeant who wore a more refined version and had stripes on his shirt. Vaughan as the Sergeant was the only one who had a real mustache.
An absolutely brilliant production, running time just over two hours, had the audience at times in fits of hysterical laughter. The tumultuous standing ovation at the end was richly deserved .
Sasha Regan’s production of THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE opened at the Sydney Theatre on Saturday 10th November and plays until Saturday 24th November, 2012.
Two visually exciting, compelling and challenging works by Dean Walsh were recently presented under the umbrella title of Prime: Orderly as part of Dance Bites, presented by FORM at Parramatta.
Both were inspired by Walsh’s love of scuba diving and concern for the environment, and distil two years of research by the Australia Council Dance Fellow into a choreographic study of marine environments. This research has also led Walsh to develop a new choreographic scoring system.
First came the sensational An Enemy, featuring the use of the Sensory Dive Memory Suit (SMDS), its ‘body’ suspended on a series of wires, as if in a spider’s web. The suit examined possibilities on the various stages of descent, neutral buoyancy, trimming and pivoting. Most of the work involved a mysterious underwater creature in a totally masking suit of purple or blue velvet-like material, and thrashing, twisting floor work.
Eventually the SMDS is cut free and then dragged and dumped like sea rubbish and netting. The masked sea creature gives a short podium speech about sharks. Then suddenly, to a strange pulsating soundtrack, he is caught and lifted – like a fish – by two mysterious humans in yellow rain ponchos. Flopping and flapping, the creature is then stripped and re-dressed by the two humans, and is left in black trousers with his head heavily wrapped and masked in black. Next comes a powerful, shaky, angular solo with balloons partly filled with ‘blood’ where the choreographic emphasis is on the shoulders and arm isolation movements and the creature dies, entangled in fishing nets.
There was stunned, appreciative silence but no chance for applause as Judith McDonald of Scuba Warehouse Parramatta was hurriedly introduced and she gave a short inspiring speech.
Under Pressure after interval reflected the timeline of a dive. In this work the three performers are all miked up, resulting in a (sometimes over-amplified) soundscape of breathing. The soundscape for this work also features beeps, hums, whistles, snaps, taps etc, again as if experienced on a dive.
Under Pressure begins almost without the audience realizing, as the three cast members, all in casual blue outfits, ‘flipped overboard’ one at a time and began to ‘dive’. Walsh’s choreography especially at the beginning, uses lots of rolling floor work. There are off balance poses and some fabulous sculptural pas de deux and pas de trois. Diving hand signals are also incorporated.
Sometimes the dancers seem like floating, rippling jellyfish. There is considerable use of straight outstretched arms and Walsh’s choreography demands at times an almost impossibly flexible back.
The set is dominated by three crumpled sculptural heaps of silver foil which turn out to also include lots of silver inflatable balloons. Walsh makes a comment on human destruction of the environment and disposability as the balloons are inflated, tossed, collected up and eventually thrown into the huge fishing net. Other large balloons are also inflated and used to symbolise both the lungs of the diver and diving equipment .Speech is also included as the cast towards the end talk about various exciting dives and the marine environment.
For both works the lighting was eerie and ominous, glowing with the occasional flash of light, as if we were sinking underwater.
An enthralling program combining dance and science, which raised major concerns about the preservation of the marine environment.
4 stars out of 5 Prime: Orderly Choreographer: Dean Walsh Performers: Dean Walsh, Natalie Aytobn, Kathryn Puie Lighting: Mikey Rice Music: ‘Indigo’ by Henke Roberty; ‘Skodde’ by Dahl G/Sagevik R; ‘Module 4’, ‘Module 10’ by Alva Noto; ‘Gulf Night’ by Nicolai Carsten Set design, sound recorder and mixer: Dean Walsh
1. An Enemy – quartet performance. Dean Walsh with two faceless beings and an environmental entity known as SDMS 2. Under Pressure – trio: Dean Walsh, Natalie Ayton and Kathyrn Puie
Running time: one hour 40 minutes (approx) including interval Parramatta Riverside Theatre 25 - 27 October
From the opening phrases of music and movement in the first work,’ Un Ballon‘, choreographed by Jiri Kylian, one notices the sensational quality of the dancing from the company , in particular a soft ‘ ballon ‘ , incredible jumps and a marvelous ‘line’.
Kylian’s Un Ballon (1991) was originally choreographed for NDT11. It is dominated by a huge tilted square rig of candles as if in an eighteenth century theatre. There is no plot as such – Kylian considers it ‘an exercise in musicality and sensitivity between male and female partners’ - an excuse, if one was necessary, for glorious dancing. The cast of three main couples and four other pairs are all in black costumes .
The choreography is at times lush, lyrical and romantic with fluid angular arms. Some of it is quite sculptural. At one point much use is made visually of the bell like formation of the upended women’s skirts. The opening pas de deux was a knockout . ‘Strings’ by outgoing artistic director Ivan Cavallari featured the magnificent playing of guest violinist Madeline Antoine. The ‘strings’ of the title are the violin strings perhaps, also the heart strings that bind us together. Another ‘string ‘was the line-up of the dancers at the beginning, introducing themselves.
Strings are also a visual theme as strings are stretched across the stage by the dancers, jumped over, held , snapped, tugged and released .There are some repeated phrases of movement and at times the choreography was reminiscent of Bejart’s style
There are some wonderful solos and pas de deux complimented by some great sculptural ensemble work. It had a spectacular entrance by Antoine in a ‘balloon’ dress and ended on a romantic tone, in a garden at night, with the dancers holding balloons. ‘Lickety Split’ choreographed by Alejandro Cerrudo had a tender, joyous mood. It was mostly a series of small vignettes of flowing short dazzling solos, in particular one by David Mack , pas de deux (or more) about love and developing relationships.
Touch and gesture were important .There was lots of sliding and expressive use of the back and the partnering was excellent. The women wore orangey/apricot coloured dresses and the men wore dark suits. Set to the music of Devendra Banhart, the dancing was abstract yet had a rather gentle , tender, joyous and loving mood .
And then for something completely different ….
After interval came Gary Stewarts’s ‘The Centre and its Opposite’. The audience was sharply divided into fans or those who didn’t like it, thrown totally out of its comfort zone with this jarring, abstract work which in some ways was similar to Forsythe or Wheeldon pieces .
Stewart took pure abstract dance, using ballet as its core, but has deconstructed and reworked it. There is no emotion, no interaction with the audience.
Stewart’s choreography demands a clean, sizzling line, emphatic turn out and a very flexible back .There were lots of pirouettes (mostly supported) , balances into arabesque as well as a use of a deep plie. There’s also an unusual use of weight, balance and being dragged across the stage.
Huey Benjamin’s jarring, crashing, pulsating score fights Stewarts’ choreography for dominance. The harsh, flickering and almost blinding cage or strip like banks of neon lights emphasize the dancers in their grey costumes.
Here were four short works that showcase the superlative dancing of this amazing company. We so rarely get to see them, all the way from Perth, and this was a real treat.
This is the first time in their sixty year history that this Company has performed in the Sydney CBD main-stage area– something in itself to celebrate!
Catch the amazing dancing of the West Australian Ballet in NEON LIGHTS, running time just under two hours including one interval, playing at the Sydney Theatre, Hickson Road, Walsh Bay between the 17th and the 20th October, 2012.
The dominant theme this year was a fantasy tropical island , so for the fun pre-show entertainment ( great dancing and singing ) the cast , moving around and interacting with the audience ,were in hula skirts , wore sea shell bras, inflatable floaties at their elbows, or were dressed as sailors.
The cast were terrific and the audience was treated to four exciting short pieces .In the outside ‘foyer, whilst we were waiting, there was an undercover tent like structure of ‘sails’ where the audience was encouraged to sit and look up at the bubbling water video effect.
When the show proper began we were welcomed and then divided into two groups, red or green according to ticket colour. If you were a ‘green’ like me, you had to wait outside a little longer. Eventually we were lead inside and the marvellous ‘Cabana Club Dancers’ performed a short witty take off of ‘Island’ dancing , with fun masks , Dame Edna glasses etc .
We were then beckoned closer and informed we were going on a ‘treasure hunt’ and led single file into the dark environs of the theatre proper . We paused and encouraging notes were passed around (‘ almost there’…).
‘Scattered’ was mostly gentle but at times challenging. The set mainly featured a plain white projection screen and what seemed to be a large pile of crumpled paper. There is no dialogue in this work but much use is made of post it notes and projections. We are all seated by a lovely young lady in white and there are various notes like ‘you are here’ etc .
We are welcomed and then the crumpled pile of paper is removed to reveal a flautist. There was interaction between the two cast members and audience and then suddenly a huge hand (on the projection screen) takes over and the two cast members are tossed and rolled by the hand, which attempts to dominate both.
Eventually we are led to another section of PACT just behind us and are also reunited with the ‘red’ members of the audience for the next work – ‘Capital i’ , which was at times disturbing and threatening.
As the program notes say, the performers were interested in creating ‘an other worldly space’ , a parallel dimension in which the inner workings of the digital realm are made visible, tangible yet still ethereal .The struggle between different forces in computing terms ( ie hacking , viruses piracy and their counterpoints is explored through notions of mysticism , possession and binary opposites .
The lighting made effective use of UV lighting for the costumes and makeup – the dancers wore black outfits with green or orange strips that glowed, and heavy swirling red paint on their faces in death like masks. Their performance started as an emphatic solo then developed into a chilling sculptural trio – messengers of death?
They stalked the stage threatening the audience then disappeared with a snap .Blackout. The end of the work is where a huge face is projected on screen , Kabuki like in an ominous threatening mask of makeup , repeatedly reciting a mantra of zero and one - are computers taking over the universe ?
I didn’t quite ‘get ‘ the short interlude piece of the ‘three fates’ , at first sexy and tempting then eating watermelon and the watermelon fight but it was fun and the audience loved it .
‘Kumkum’ the final piece, was excellent. Raghav Handa , performer and choreographer, has created a proud, passionate solo that fuses contemporary dance with Indian and Bangarra like styles in a most exciting mix. There were also hints of Nijinksi’s ‘Afternoon of A Faun ‘ at times .
The dominant colour towards the end was blood red – the blood of the land? The blood of humanity? While Handa was dancing there was a terrific performance by cellist Alli Sebastian Wolf , who had her back to the audience , wearing a very long train draped from the headpiece she wore . The lighting/video work by Jacqui Mills was most effective and atmospheric.
A most exciting, at times startling and challenging programme. Four ‘works in progress’ that I would like to see more of. FRESHLY SQUEEZED, with a performance running time of 90 minutes straight through, played at the PACT Theatre, Erskineville the 19th and 20th October, 2012.
Tarantula is a terrific new Australian play about the extraordinary life of femme fatale Lola Montez, the Irish-born dancer and actress who in 1846 became the mistress of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, and later scandalised the Australian gold fields with her erotic ‘Spider Dance’; a voluptuous dance in which she pretended to be looking for a spider in her skirts.
Narratively, the story unfolds as a play within a play within a relationship. Gina (Zoe Carides) is an actress, and is interested in Lola Montez both professionally and personally. She has written a play about Montez, which we see staged in the rehearsal studio.
Various famous incidents in Lola’s life are portrayed, such as her horsewhipping of The Ballarat Times’ editor Henry Seekamp and her life on the Victorian goldfields. Some are bizarre but all, apparently, are true.
Tarantula opens with Terry (Michael Whalley) as Lola’s lover, Noel Follard, who disappeared mysteriously from the ship the J.A. Falkenburg en route to California in 1856.Did Lola push him overboard? Did he fall off, drunk? Did he jump? Gina wants to know why and how he disappeared, if it is at all possible to know. Lola is a major suspect, but it is the atmosphere in the rehearsal room that becomes important as we see Gina’s relationship with Terry drastically change.
One of the main themes of Alana Valentine’s play is Lola’s significance as a feminist role model. Also important is the issue of older women’s sexuality, self acceptance and independence. ‘Desire is a tarantula and it bites,’ as Gina/Lola says. Her ‘Spider Dance’ is often referred to, and performed (with choreography by Julia Cotton); used as a symbol of convention and of Lola’s continual defiance, as well as a symbol of female desire. Ageism, sexism and clichéd gender stereotypes are all discussed in depth from Gina and Terry’s opposite viewpoints.
Zoe Carides as Lola is magnificent. She gives a stirring, bewitching performance in her red and gold dress. The handsome, youthful-looking Michael Whalley in the male roles is tremendous, a real lady killer as Terry. Both obviously have a whale of a time.
Sarah-Jane McAllan’s abstract set design of light cotton drapes links in with Montez’s tour of the Victorian goldfields and helps create the intimate rehearsal room atmosphere. Martin Cook’s lighting is extremely effective, and Richard Mills’ music is terrific.
An excellent production of a marvellous new Australian play, showcasing some great performances.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5 Tarantula By Alana Valentine Director/Producer: Nastassja Djalog Designer: Sarah-Jane Mcallan Lighting Designer: Marcus Cook Costumes: Beth Allen Choreography: Julia Cotton With: Zoe Carides and Michael Whalley Running time: 90 mins (approx) no interval King St. Theatre, Newtown 9 October – 3 November
Witches, wizards and Muggles of all ages will love this magical, hilarious riot. The house was in hysterical fits of laughter the whole show. Some audience members wore wizard robes.
‘The un authorised Harry experience’, it is for Harry Potter fans of all ages .It is I suppose best if you and love the books and movies and have a yearning to study or teach at Hogwarts . In ‘Reduced Shakespeare ‘/’One Man Lord of the Rings’ style it is an epic, witty distillation of the seven books by JK Rowling and follow Harry’s life and adventures at Hogwarts.
The over three hundred characters in the books are here all played by two magnificent actors: Jesse Briton and Garry Trainor in exuberant form. This is the terrific Sydney cast of a show that originally began as a five minute skit in London in 2005.
Developed by Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, it has packed out audiences in London, Edinburgh and Canada , is nominated for Olivier awards and now is touring internationally. Fast paced, madcap and witty, the Potter books are treated and distilled with massive love and respect but the jokey, improvised feel is still there.
The set at the beginning has a large soft toy nursery version of a train engine , doubling as the famous Hogwart’s Express .There are also sheet covered mysterious items eventually revealed as a coffin ( spooky ) – relating to the darker side of the books , a wardrobe ( that opens for a blank screen) and a brightly painted flat for The Forbidden Forest .
Slighter taller, thinner Briton appears to be the more ‘zany’ of the two and has great fun playing an enormous number of characters with different wigs, props, voices etc. Including an authoritatively wicked Lord Voldemort (ssshhh – You Know Who) with devil’s horns.
Trainor mostly plays Harry and is seemingly the more controlled and responsible one. Both act as narrator in parts and are identically dressed in blue jeans and a black tshirt .Both are extremely energetic and flexible and obviously have a whale of a time, performing with great comic timing and dexterity.
Much fun is had with puppetry for a couple of the characters (eg Dobby) and there is great use of a powerpoint/cgi screen effect to whizz us through Book 3 . There is also very effective ‘magical ‘ lighting at times ( eg the Deluminator , and the wizard duels. ).
There are so many highlights but special mention must be made of the various appearances of Ron Weasley , Hermoine Grainger , Dobby the house elf, Hagrid, Sirius Black and Dumbledore among others. And the fabulous Quidditch game that has the whole audience participating is glorious fun. (The appearance of the ‘golden snitch ‘is a hilarious show stopper).
The finale, with the duet by Harry and Voldemort to ‘I Will Survive’ is a wickedly witty way to end the show . Book now.
POTTED POTTER, with a running time of 90 minutes, is playing at the Sydney Theatre between the 9th and 14th October and then tours. For more information visit the website at http://www.pottedpotter.com.au/tour-dates
Tags: Sydney Theatre Reviews- POTTED POTTER, Sydney Theatre, Sydney Theatre, Lynne Lancaster, Sydney Arts Guide
Colin Moody and Stephen James King in RED. Photo by Natalie Boog.
This Ensemble Theatre production of John Logan’s Red – a captivating play about art, life and success – is brilliantly performed by Colin Moody as the brooding Rothko, and Stephen James King as his younger assistant, Ken.
Set in the 1950’s, in Rothko’s cluttered studio, you can literally smell the paint and turpentine that’s used in the show. Unpainted canvas and buckets of paint are everywhere, and prominent is a large blank canvas, waiting...
At the beginning of the show Moody as Rothko is sprawled in a chair, staring at the audience. As the play unfolds, we increasingly see Rothko through his assistant’s eyes. Ken arrives for an interview to become Rothko’s assistant, a position which involves preparing canvases, stretching and priming them, and being a general dogsbody.
From the outset, Ken’s role as Rothko’s assistant, and Rothko’s role as employer, is clearly defined: ‘I am not your rabbi, I am not your father, I am not your shrink, I am not your friend, I am not your teacher,' Rothko insists. Yet over the next two years of the play’s time frame, Rothko in some ways plays all those roles, and Ken learns how to deal with Rothko’s extremely unpredictable temper.
Rothko is cold, dominating and assertive. He demands, snaps, lectures and bullies Ken. We learn about Rothko’s attitude towards his contemporaries and rivals, such as Jackson Pollock and Roy Lichtenstein. We learn of Rothko’s ideas on art and colour as inspired by great artists such as Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Goya and Matisse, and also how his Jewishness has shaped his perceptions. As Rothko, Moody is powerful, hypnotic, intense and electric.
We also learn more about Ken, and how his parents were murdered in a pained, tragic monologue which King delivers excellently.
Ken acts as a provocative sounding board for Rothko’s theories on life and art. One powerful scene between them features a great discussion about the ‘meaning’ and ‘emotion’ of colour – the various shades of red, black and white, for example .Why is black regarded as bad luck and linked to death? Another depicts the two exuberantly, almost choreographically, priming a huge canvas with a particular shade of red (Ken calls it ‘dried blood’).
Red is all about looking; the artist’s ‘eye’, and the struggle to depict what is seen in the imagination on canvas. It also explores the struggle to live creatively, and raises questions about art and morality. Rothko is working on a major commission for the posh Four Seasons restaurant. Is he selling out and succumbing to commercialism, against all his principles, or revealing his soul?
An enthralling play about the meaning of life and art and the search for truth.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Red By John Logan Director: Mark Kilmurry Assistant Director: Brian Meegan Designer: Lucilla Smith Lighting Designer: Nick Higgins Wardrobe Coordinator: Lisa Mimmocchi Dialect Coach: Natasha McNamara With Colin Moody and Stephen James King Running time: 90 mins (approx) no interval
The Ensemble Theatre, Kirribilli September 6 – October 6
OffIce Politics gone comically haywire in THE LUNCH HOUR
This show is for all theatre people who have worked in a ticketing box office/call centre with annoying, idiotic customers. It has an excellent, very strong cast who are terrific, but the play is somewhat confused, jumbled and artificial and just misses the mark. The idea behind it is excellent, some of it was spot on and very close to the bone, other sections disappoint.
It could actually be two plays – there is quite a distinct division between the two halves as well as the introduction of an extra character.
The play is set in a box office call centre and is Aronsten’s follow up to HUMAN RESOURCES, previously staged at Darlo.
In Act 1 we first meet Martin, the call centre supervisor, (Gerry Sont) – fussy, obsessive, he is stressed and a worrier. He is also a caffeine freak, and his team call him ‘Daddy’.
His team is secretly writing a play about Martin in the hope of winning a playwriting competition. However , Martin has submitted his own play for the prize, based on his staff and their thwarted lives and he leaves it as a ‘gift’ and wakeup call when he mysteriously vanishes, having won the prize.
Act One introduces the team and we see how they end up attacking Martin (the finale to Act 1 is quite simian and scary really). We see how they play various ‘games’ and do everything they can to avoid answering calls while simultaneously secretly working on their collaborative play lampooning Martin.
In Act 2 the team discover the play that Martin has written about them and go on to rehearse it. We get to know the characters a lot more, through Martin’s eyes, and it is also in some ways a journey of self discovery for them all.
Catherine (Angela Bauer), the actress and playwright stuck in a rut and dependent on the insights of her astrologer, has a sharp, searing, drunken segment brilliantly performed. Chris, ( Shaun Rennie ) would be writer and who acts as narrator for part of the time, is excellent .
There is also a featured section for obstreperous, extremely opinionated lesbian hip hop ‘comic’ Fran (Branden Christine). And we see buxom, provocative Felicity (Briallen Clarke) and partner Simon (Sonny Vrebac ) who attend an audition and then go through relationship crisis when one is more successful and has more job offers than the other .
Bali Padda as Ali, the officer cleaner who is dragooned to play ‘Martin’ in Act 2 is great .Fran and Ali are Aronsten’s excuse for some racist and sexist ‘jokes’ and more bad ‘jokes’ in the finale as well as some of the off-colour swearing elsewhere in the play .
The show ends in a mini-musical with the cast in a ‘Cabaret’ or ‘A Chorus Line’ spoof and having a whale of a time. But there is no real resolution. Does Martin return, and forgive the team for the ‘I hate Martin’ attack ? Will management from head office arrive ?
Whilst the show has great performances, it is a somewhat disjointed collection of pieces in a weird, surrealist, black comedy way that was sometimes funny but more frequently not .
Chris Aronstein’ s THE LUNCH HOUR, with a running time of 100 minutes including one interval , and directed by Kate Gaul, opened at the Darlinghurst Theatre on Tuesday 11th September and runs until Sunday 7th October, 2012.
Tags: Sydney Theatre Reviews- THE LUNCH HOUR, Chris Aronstein, Kate Gaul, Angela Bauer, Branden Christine, Briallen Clarke, Bali Padda, Shaun Rennie, Gerry Sont, Sonny Vrebac, Sydney Arts Guide, Lynne Lancaster
This is an extraordinary recording of the Nederlands Dance Theatre in their home theatre the Lucent Theatre in Den Hag of four short works. For dance affecionados this is a must see as NDT, revered in the dance world, so rarely tour to Australia.
NDT1 is the main company of 30 dancers, established in 1959, currently with English choreographer Paul Lightfoot as artistic director .NDT11 was formed in 1978 and is made up of younger dancers and usually features newer choreographers. Here we see and get a feel for both companies, with an interview with Lightfoot and Sol Leon during the ’interval’, and the works are introduced by a dancer in the cast. There are four works in the programme and we see the audience arrive as well as dancers limbering up before the performance, the lighting and tech people and follow a dancer into the wings .
The photography is intimate and revealing and great use of closeup is made where appropriate. The works transfer marvellously from the stage to screen .We see the dancers breathtaking technical ability and their fluid flexibility. Technically the dancing is sublime and the dancers revel in the challenge of the different styles.
The works are:-
‘Left Right Left’. Choreographed by Alexander Ekman, associate choreographer of NDT11, it opens with the dancers in sculptural Anthony Gormley like poses of waiting. It examines human movement from a rhythmic, timing (counts) and intense concentration perspective and there is spectacular lighting . A woman in an elegant red dress parades carefully and slowly across the stage mysteriously ‘framing’ the performance. Humourous snippets of voiceovers are included from interviews of audience members commenting on the performance and also form cast members (from this we learn the woman in red was injured during rehearsals). Synchronised robotic movements and breath control are extremely important. In a synchronised treadmill section, where weight, balance and control are very important the dancers seem to ‘fly’ . A funny sequence is included where the dancers have been filmed performing choreographic phrases from the work outdoors, and the odd public reactions.
For me the least successful work was ‘Secus’ , choreographed by Ohad Naharin , seconded from the Batsheva Dance Company .This was originally part of a three piece work ( ‘Ballet Three’) for NDT1. Pure abstract dance, for me there was no interaction at all with the audience .It was disjointed and fragmented and didn’t really ‘go anywhere’ .And the blaring start and jarring electronic soundscore was quite offputting.There appeared to be some Cunningham and /or Forsythe influence – a use of intense stillness contrasted with sudden explosive movements and wonderful soft jumps. Small repeated phrases of movement , falls and some amazing male pas de deux are featured. The finale had a modelling catwalk feel to it. The dancers absolutely love it and threw themselves into the work with massive enthusiasm.
Then came ‘Silent Screen’, which used cinematic techniques and a triptych of huge screens, with the haunting, reflective music of Phillip Glass. There are references to the world of silent movies, but the way I ‘read’ it was that it was a couple’s anguish at the loss of their child. It is quite Surrealist in parts with turbulent clouds in the background and at one point a beach that segues to a snowy forest – images that the dancers step out of. Much use is very effectively made of silhouette.
It is magical and lyrical, the choreographing demanding a long flowing ‘line’. The dancers have to be almost boneless, incredibly flexible and have a feline sinuous presence. There are some dramatic solos and ravishing pas de deux.
'Shine a Light ‘choreographed by Paul Lightfoot and Sol Leon for NDT1 is mostly about children’s nightmares but also delves into the male psyche. This is a mesmerizing, powerful, very moving work at times chilling, sometimes dreamlike. There is billowing dry ice and a terrifying brutal militaristic feel in parts, contrasted with strange, haunting Butoh like sections of a girl in a blue and white sort of eighteenth century style dress and a robotic, mysterious, mermaid- like strange figure in high white boots and long hair that obscures the face. Some of the choreography is reminiscent of that of Matthew Bourne.
Nederlands Dans Theater’s production of MOVE TO MOVE, presented by Sharmill Films and Pathe Live, with a running time of 178 minutes, is playing at the Dendy Opera Quays, Chauvel, Event Bondi Junction and Hayden Orpheum Cremorne cinemas.
Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- MOVE TO MOVE, Netherlands Dance Theatre, Dance On Film, Sharmill Films, Dendy Opera Quays, Chauvel Cinema, Event Cinema Bondi Junction, Hayden Orpheum Cremorne, Sydney Arts Guide, Lynne Lancaster
Antony Hamilton and Melanie Lane in Black Project 1. Photo: Jess Bialek.
Programmed as part of this year’s Spring Dance season, Clouds Above Berlin – a challenging and confronting double bill of cutting edge, minimalist, deconstructed dance – consisted of two short works by Australian choreographers Melanie Lane and Antony Hamilton. Responses to the work were polarised: it seemed one was either mesmerised and entranced by the two pieces, or totally tuned out.
First came Lane’s solo, Tilted Faun. Most of the work consisted of Lane, in dark jeans and top, elegantly shifting wooden, brick-sized building blocks, constructing towers and other forms, like a child playing with Lego. Or, in this case an angelic architect rebuilding the shattered and destroyed city of Berlin? According to the program notes, Lane was attempting to ‘explore the relationship between sound, objects and the body. A visual sound installation constructed with an orchestra of tape machines, objects and choreography propels a lone dancer through landscapes that are at times stark, melancholic and dark and mythical’. Well....
Weight and balance were important – at one point Lane carried a large number of blocks and held one with her chin to stop it falling. There were simple arm swings and yoga-like stretches, a block held above her head with arms outstretched. Sometimes she shifted just one block, at other times several simultaneously. There was a lot of use of pause and blackout. A long, slithering body line was developed when shifting the blocks, while at another point Lane seemed to put her arm through a tower of blocks. The music – eclectic beeps, growls, clicks, and bird calls – burbled its accompaniment.
The second work, Black Project 1 resembled a cold, post-apocalyptic vision of humanity. A couple, seemingly covered in grey ash, are revealed in a monochromatic landscape. Their movements are synchronised, often twitchy and robotically puppet-like, and featuring incredibly demanding use of the pelvis and lower back. Some of the movement is lizard-like and slow motion is briefly used. There was also very effective use of floorwork, falls and rolls.
The two dancers used white tape and sprayed graffiti on the back wall like blurry stars to ‘enhance’ the futuristic, bunker-like atmosphere (recalling a previous work by Hamilton, 2008’s Blazeblue Oneline, a merging of hip-hop, graffiti and contemporary dance). CGI swirls were used to great effect, as was white chalk (to draw circles on the floor) and white, reflective face or body paint . Choreographically there was also wonderful, sculptural tree-like posed tableaux with arms as waving branches, and at another point angular rotor-like arm movements.
The electronic music throbbed and pulsated. Special mention must be made of the lighting by Max Stezl. At times very gloomy, at others like searchlights, it was a critical part of the show. In the strange finale the dancers at times, because of the lighting, became almost invisible . It all ended with clouds floating across the set and lighting; a combination of strobe lighting, spinning helicopter blades and throbbing music.
The audience was assaulted, challenged and provoked in this most unusual program.
Rating: 3 ½ stars out of 5
Clouds Above Berlin Spring Dance 2012 Curated by Rafael Bonachela
Tilted Fawn Choreography, concept, performer: Melanie Lane Sound composition and installation: Chris Clark Artistic Collaboration: Margan Belenguer Dramaturgy: Bart van Der Eynde Costume, props: Melanie Lane Lighting: Max Stezl
Black Project 1 Choreography, concept, design: Antony Hamilton Performers: Antony Hamilton, Melanie Lane Video projection: Olaf Meyer Set construction and production management: Matthew Scott, megafun Music: Robert Henke Vaino and Fennesz Costumes: Antony Hamilton Producers: Freya Waterson and Lee Cumerlidge, Insight Arts
Sydney Opera House August 29 – September 2