Posts Tagged ‘benjamin chapman

24
Aug
15

7 Deadly Sins

 

7 Deadly Sins

Expressions Dance Company (EDC)

QPAC Playhouse

August 21 to 29 2015

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

7deadlysins_chrisherzfeldcamlight

 

‘We are committed to contemporary storytelling that touches the human spirit …’

 

Natalie Weir, Artistic Director, Expressions Dance Company

 

In EDC’s latest work, the seven deadly sins enter in a blaze of gold, and then strip back to reveal the darkness beneath, battling for supremacy over each other and over a hapless Man.

 

Initially, we see the Man (Thomas Gundry Greenfield) watching TV, with the eerie flicker of the changing images reflected over him. As he sits in a vegetative state, his soul appears to rise from his body to indulge in or wrestle with the sins. His body stays as a lifeless dummy in front of the TV set, and this is where the soul returns in the end.

 

Each sin – Sloth, Greed, Gluttony, Lust, Envy, Pride and Wrath – is represented by a single dancer. They each wear a distinctive gold costume – all stunningly opulent, except for Sloth’s simple, loose shift. After a spectacular entrance by each sin in turn, appearing out of boxes of various sizes, the costumes are discarded to reveal the dancers in brief black practice wear. Every dancer has a wonderful initial solo, punctuated by various duos and other combinations with the Man, with each other, and as a whole group.

 

Natalie Weir's 7 Deadly Sins_Photo shows Daryl Brandwood (top) and Benjamin Chapman (bottom)_Photo by Chris Herzfeld_med res

 

The boxes echo the Ancient Greek myth of Pandora’s box, which contained all human evils and miseries. Pandora opened the box, releasing evil into the world. The boxes also echo the initial inspiration for the work: paintings of human vices by Giotto di Bondone, an Italian artist of the 13th–14th century, who depicted each vice as a single, closely framed human figure.

 

7 Deadly Sins is an abstract expression of the sins’ essence, rather than a strongly narrative work, although there are elements of narrative. For instance, the first sin to appear is Sloth (Cloudia Elder), summoned by the Man’s TV-induced inertia. The scenario could be interpreted literally as television being the source of all sin – another incarnation of Pandora’s box – but that might be going too far, and the connection is a looser, more dreamlike one.

 

Following the appearance of Greed (Daryl Brandwood) and Gluttony (Jack Ziesing), they and the Man attack Sloth, hurling her into the air and catching her in a savage display. The feeling is that they are forcing her into showing some energy.

 

7deadlysins_elisemay

 

Towards the end, after Wrath (Michelle Barnett) has appeared, the whole group dances in a frenzy, and the Man hits out at Lust (Elise May). In this violent interpretation of ‘to spurn love and opt for fury’ (as the program notes describe wrath), she becomes a wounded creature trying to escape from him. In this scene, May seems to represent Love, rather than the coldly seductive Lust she portrays earlier with awe-inspiring grace and control. In her gold costume, she looks like a princess from some ancient world.

 

The movement is intensely acrobatic, moving seamlessly through every dimension of the space. Elder, as Sloth, is a burden to the Man, dragging him down and, in a memorable image, hanging face-down and unsupported over his head in an inverted V. Gundry Greenfield is a strong, muscular figure as the Man, while also projecting a sense of bafflement and of being in thrall to the sins.

 

Brandwood makes Greed look savagely elegant, extending and contorting his limbs impossibly as he manoeuvres over, around, and out of a giant rectangular box. His polish and control always stand out. We will miss this wonderful dancer when he leaves EDC at the end of this year.

 

Ziesing is a very athletic Gluttony, after ridding himself of his outer gold costume that only mildly resembles a ‘fat suit’. Benjamin Chapman evokes an emperor with conquered subjects in a commanding interpretation of Pride.

 

Rebecca Hall is a snakelike Envy, slithering and twining – and making her entrance in a fabulous billowing gold snakeskin coat. As Wrath, Barnett projects strength and energy in her explosive movement, her legs and strongly arched feet like weapons.

 

Natalie Weir's 7 Deadly Sins_Photo shows L-R Elise May, Thomas Gundry Greenfield and Michelle Barnett_Photo by Chris Herzfeld

 

I could go on watching these dancers and this choreography forever, mesmerised by the feats the dancers perform, and the beauty and power of the movement choreographed by Artistic Director Natalie Weir, in collaboration with the dancers. Weir also acknowledges the important contribution to creation and staging by Rehearsal Director Amy Hollingsworth, formerly Dance Director with Sydney Dance Company.

 

The mesmerising choreography and movement distracted me from the confusing ending of the work, in terms of structure and flow. A conclusion seemed to be reached several times (at one point the audience starting to applaud as if this were the case) before the final resolution.

 

7 Deadly Sins makes a big visual and aural impact. The gold costumes are the dominant visible feature of Bill Haycock’s design, which he says in his program notes are inspired by the ‘currently popular “sword and sorcery” films’. The set, based on the idea of a gold living room, is minimal, enriched by the lighting (David Walters) in different tones of gold, and also blue and red.

 

Darrin Verhagen’s music (with additional material by Ben Keane) evokes each sin – slow and meditative for Sloth, overlaid with snuffling and muffled snoring sounds; driven percussion for Greed; slow and voluptuous for Lust; sinister for Envy, overlaid with hissing, and sly whispering (like Parseltongue, the Harry Potter serpent language); and frenzied drumming and hoarse screaming for Wrath.

 

7 Deadly Sins runs until 29 August.

 

 

01
Nov
13

Carmen Sweet

 

Carmen Sweet

Expressions Dance Company & QPAC

QPAC Cremorne Theatre

31 October – 2 November 2013

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

Natalie Weir's Carmen Sweet. Pictured EDC's Elise May, Benjamin Chapman. Image by Dylan Evans.

 

Natalie Weir’s Carmen Sweet finishes tomorrow, which is an absolute travesty, because apart from Katherine Lyall-Watson’s Motherland at Metro Arts and QTC’s Design For Living in the Playhouse next door, Carmen Sweet is Brisbane’s other must-see show at the moment, at a time when our theatre seasons are wrapping up and the festive season and its drinks are beginning to take over our evenings. “Come for drinks,” “Just drop in for drinks,” “It’s just drinks,” “We’ll bring the drinks.” Does that sound familiar? Well, at the Cremorne Theatre, for Carmen Sweet, you can take your drinks in with you. I know! The festive season comes early to QPAC! I love the Cremorne in its cabaret configuration, and to get up close to performers who are practically artworks themselves is a joy. So book a table! I’m sure the strength, tone, balance, flexibility and focus of this ensemble, which we see up close from said table, can be attributed not only to the rigorous demands of training and rehearsal, but also to the work being done with the team at West End’s Core Yoga. The secret of course, is to make it all look effortless during performance, and these dancers do just that.

 

The Cremorne space is much more intimate than The J, which is where Poppy and I enjoyed the first version of this show, during the Noosa Long Weekend earlier this year. The second half of a double-bill, and the only dance piece in the program, Carmen Sweet stood out and when I knew it was to return, I locked it in early! Last night, Natalie Weir and her exquisitely talented dancers wowed us again, with a passionate and playful performance of the full version; it features a guest ensemble of young local dancers this time and flows more smoothly from one number to the next, and right to the bittersweet end. Rodion Shchedrin’s Carmen Suite is “quirky and sublime”, the perfect choice for Weir’s reimagining of the famous femme fatale’s tragic tale. Why do we still admire her and want to be her? Because she is FABULOUS! The story has made her so, and the women who play her in Weir’s version are FABULOUS.

 

Natalie Weir's Carmen Sweet. Pictured EDC's Elise May, Michelle Barnett, Jack Ziesing, Riannon McLean. Image by Dylan Evans.

 

All three Carmens are exceptional, presenting contrasting and conflicting aspects and alter egos of the woman. They are Elise May, Michelle Barnett and Rhiannon McLean (sadly, this season is McLean’s last). They are equally matched in skill and strength, and in their fierce commitment to the character, but Elise May is something else, drawing all eyes, regardless of what else is happening on stage and even when she is completely still. She is simply incredible to watch and makes me think, every time I see her, of our Cate. That’s right. Elise May is the Cate Blanchett of Australia’s contemporary dance scene. I wonder how much longer we’ll have her?

 

The girls are joined on stage by beautiful, powerful performers, Daryl Brandwood (he is fate or Carmen’s conscience), Jack Ziesing (the hapless soldier) and Benjamin Chapman (the famous toreador). Brandwood’s entrance and subsequent solo performance particularly, is simply exquisite, and drew gasps from those sitting behind me on opening night, as did the opening motif featuring Elise May on the red-lips-lounge in a superb black gown, designed and created by Bill Haycock. Similarly, the lighting states by Ben Hughes are impressive, evocative, the icing on the cake.

 

Natalie Weir's Carmen Sweet. Pictured EDC's Benjamin Chapman, Riannon McLean, Jack Ziesing. Image by Dylan Evans.

 

And speaking of cake, I keep thinking about what Brisbane continues to offer us, not just at the moment, but year-round, in terms of its theatrical seasons and support of our artists, and dance being no exception; we can have our cake and eat it too. We are missing out on very little, really (I mean, who has the time to see much more?!), thanks to the incredibly talented individuals who choose to create and produce their work in Brisbane. Having said that, because I’VE NEVER BEEN TO MELBOURNE BEFORE Sam and I are off to Melbourne at the end of next week, just for a few days, and we’ll see King Kong and The Beast …I’m expecting to be bemused by one and entertained by the other! Follow us on Instagram and Twitter #xsgoestomelbourne

 

You don’t have to go to Melbourne to see Natalie Weir’s Carmen Sweet. It’s world class contemporary dance happening right here in Brisbane, but only until tomorrow night!

 

 

To find out about becoming a dancer at EDC or to apply for their week-long contemporary dance intensive in January 2014 see expressionsdancecompany.org.au