Posts Tagged ‘david walters

15
Oct
18

Everyday Requiem

 

Everyday Requiem

Expressions Dance Company

QPAC Cremorne Theatre

October 12 – 20 2018

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

I have tried to approach this work with a sense of nostalgia for the past, but even more, with a sense of what is important in moving forward for a 70-year-old man. Forgiveness, acceptance, love and family — surely that is what is important.

Natalie Weir, Artistic Director, EDC

 

 

In making Everyday Requiem, the singers and I have aimed for simplicity and beauty, interacting with jarringly everyday imagery.

Gordon Hamilton, Artistic Director, The Australian Voices

 

 

Everyday Requiem is choreographer Natalie Weir’s final signature work for Expressions Dance Company as Artistic Director. After 10 years, in which the company has grown and developed under her leadership, and in which she has created a string of outstanding works, she is moving on to a new phase of her life and career.

 

Everyday Requiem is the story of 70 years in the life of an ‘ordinary man’, reflecting the way our lives are complex mixtures of mundane routine, everyday joys and disappointments, ecstatic happiness and shattering tragedy.

 

 

Vocal ensemble The Australian Voices is an integral part of this work, performing an a cappella vocal score by their Artistic Director and composer, Gordon Hamilton. The six singers not only sing with a moving purity of tone and faultless diction: they also act, they engage with the dancers, and perform some demanding choreographed movement while singing. Isabella Gerometta, one of the singers, subtly conducts the ensemble.

 

Their vocal performance includes interesting effects and techniques such as harmonic chant, and singing while gargling. Snatches of text from the traditional Latin requiem appear in among more banal, everyday words, such as lists of items from a schoolbag, and pet names used by lovers. A song by Tibetan musician Tenzin Choegyal also runs through the work.

 

The focal point of Everyday Requiem is the Old Man, played by guest artist and veteran dancer, choreographer and actor Brian Lucas. He looks back on his life, seeing its progression from childhood to youth and first love, to maturity, marriage and fatherhood, and on to middle and old age.

 

 

Lucas is a tall and commanding figure, but projects great warmth and tenderness in this role, conveying a wisdom born from hard experience, and a yearning for happy moments in the past while appreciating the present. He has a powerful stage presence.

 

The choreography for dancers playing the roles of people in the Old Man’s past is intensely athletic, fluid and expressive, with duos full of inventive lifts that flow naturally out of the movement. Mixed in with the complex movement are repeated motifs of simpler, more everyday ones, such as slow dancing, and playing the child’s ‘hand over hand’ game.

 

Jag Popham is a playful incarnation of the character’s Infancy and Childhood, showing a strong bond with his Mother, Australian Voices member Sophie Banister, who evokes a tender affection that is one of the enduring themes of the life story. (There is no Father character.) Humour springs from the playfulness in the movement and music, the vocal text introducing the refrain of names of items in a child’s schoolbag.

 

Jake McLarnon is strong and intense as the Adolescent and Young Man, very much resembling a younger version of Lucas. His duos with Isabella Hood, as his Young Love, are athletically lyrical, showing an awakening passion. The duos become trios when the Brother (Scott Ewen), compounding earlier sibling rivalry, steals the girlfriend. Ewen plays the cocky, bullying brother with relish, and portrays a later reconciliation with great sincerity.

 

The Young Man marries The Wife, played by guest artist Lizzie Vilmanis. Vilmanis is EDC’s Rehearsal Director, a former company dancer, and also now an independent artist. Standing in for an injured Elise May, she is wonderful in this role. Technically strong, fluid and precise, she expresses all the emotions of the role without histrionics, but making a powerful impact.

 

As the Mature Man, Richard Causer projects a brooding physicality and frozen anguish on his return from war. While his relationship with his wife remains strong, the difficult relationship with his daughter (Alana Sargent) is a key part of the ongoing story. Causer and Vilmanis are well matched, and generate a heart-wrenching intensity of emotion. The daughter is the character most overtly expressing emotions, which Sargent does with speed and abandon.

 

There is a note of optimism and recovery all through Everyday Requiem, and it finishes with a moving 70th birthday party. The large group of nostalgic and happy party guests are older dancers from WaW Dance (a Brisbane ensemble of mature-aged dancers led by Wendy McPhee and Wendy Wallace).

 

The set and costume design (Bill Haycock) and lighting design (David Walters, assisted by Christine Felmingham) are simple and very effective: a dark backdrop is sometimes lit to glow dark gold, and tables and chairs are shifted around in different configurations.

 

The singers wear white, and the male dancers wear conservative pants, shirts and jackets in neutral colours with touches of black, and jungle greens for a war scene. The women’s costumes stand out as touches of colour: a salmon-pink cardigan for the Mother, a full-skirted 1960s yellow dress for Young Love, a dark-red plaid dress for the Wife, and a light denim blue for the Daughter.

 

 

On the first night, the performance was briefly interrupted by a fire alarm at a significant moment. However, this was soon forgotten as everyone involved in the performance drew us straight back into the story.

 

After the emotional and celebratory conclusion of Everyday Requiem, the first-night audience leapt to their feet in a standing ovation, clapping, whooping and cheering in response to the performance, and to Natalie Weir in particular. It was a well-deserved acknowledgement of a stunningly beautiful work that pierces the heart with joy, sadness, and ultimately celebration. It was also a fitting tribute to Weir herself and her achievements as a choreographer and Artistic Director.

 

24
Sep
14

대홍수 Deluge

brisbanefestival2014

deluge_header

 

대홍수 Deluge

Brisbane Festival, Motherboard Productions & Brisbane Powerhouse

Brisbane Powerhouse

September 18 – 20 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 

 

Deluge. Anything that overwhelms.

 

We are all naked in the face of grief…

Director, Jeremy Neideck

 

 

Deluge Preview from Motherboard Productions on Vimeo.

 

During Brisbane Writers Festival, I was delighted to speak with Morris Gleitzman, mostly about tea. Not only a renowned author, he’s what you might call a tea connoisseur, quietly, humbly possessing vast knowledge on many varieties of tea, and the many ways in which humans have enjoyed tea for centuries. I’ve come to realise that tea expertise impresses me immensely and if you can talk about it, and make it well, you are a prince (or princess) amongst men (or women).

 

In our household tea is very special, even sacred (I quit coffee a couple of years ago); the drinking of tea is not to be rushed or denied. Our tea “ceremonies” enable a level of conversation and connection that we just don’t discover over any other shared beverage. Tea is the first and final thing we share each day, and it links events, friends and colleagues in between.
Considering my appreciation for a good cuppa, I delighted in the notion of a tea ceremony to open the show. During this time the house lights stay up and we watch as members of the company take tea orders from the audience. Black? Green? Milk? Sugar? They are relaxed, in no rush at all, waiting patiently to take turns to pour the water to make the tea from a towering urn centre stage, which sits in pride of place on a kitchen hutch. It’s not what Raymond Mao would do but it sets the scene and serves to focus our attention on the performers’ focus, kindness and control of the elements. A deceptively simple soundscape (Sound Designer Dane Alexander) and the alternating pace of the performers’ movements remind me of the imagery and viewing experience of Baraka. Although the slow-mo sets the pace of the show and establishes its ritual, which continues in the following moving water vessels sequence, what starts out as a quirky, gentle, delightful opening sequence feels, after 20 minutes, too long, even for me.

 

Other segments of the show feel indulgent for little gain or effect. Without a narrative – everything is symbolic – at times we’re left floundering (though no less fascinated or impressed by the movement itself), like the flotsam and jetsam along the shoreline. I try to go with the flow, to take in as much as possible on an experiential level. Despite its strengths Deluge is presented in an extended form that some may be reluctant to sit through again. This is unfortunate (or is it?) for the development of the piece, which might just need a new pair of eyes on it. Ultimately, despite some moments that are forever etched in my memory, this version of the show is one that is less mesmerising than it should be.

 

BPH_Brisbane_Festival_Deluge_10_2014-1180x663

 

The production’s strength lies in its design and ritualistic choreographic elements. The action happens in and around a semi-circle of pylons, rising up out of swirling mist like some structure’s ruined foundations at the edge of Brisbane River. Having waded through waist-deep, stinking black mud to get to Drift in the aftermath of the 2011 floods, and knowing there was a similar clean up required at Brisbane Powerhouse (and everywhere else), this picture alone elicits strong feelings. It’s the bold work of Sarah Winter, the head and heart behind A Dinner With Gravity, a rare production of pure magic, which has never left me. Here too, Winter creates a dramatic, quite magical scene out of very little. A fantastic final segment, the climax of the piece, utilises the majesty of the simple set, immense lengths of white fabric (and, are they plastic bags?), and the power of Neideck’s physical and vocal performance especially, to striking effect. Before that though, an extended trance sequence builds and builds, the performers shivering, trembling, and eventually leaping up and down on the spot, Maasai Warrior style, possessed by some dark spirit or inherent longing. They suddenly stop, and one by one disappear, drowned, beneath a shimmering green light, a body of laser brilliance that engulfs each figure. The audience gasps, collectively; the movement and music and flood of emotion has quietened all at once. This moment is why we gather together to experience live theatre. (It represents the way we come together after a natural disaster, in one breath, the same realisation, all at once). The award-winning lighting, surely, by David Walters, the stuff of illegal substance enhanced dreams, is easily his best work to date.

 

Another moment brings us Whirling Dervish sema bliss. Or is it grief even still? It’s mostly grief explored in this production – sorrow, despair and some hope. The sort of hope we hope a hot cuppa will bring.

 

Both female and male performers wear simple yet sumptuous layered, gathered skirts, which swirl and billow around the dancers just like Seven Angels Jasmin Lychee blossoms dance around our big glass teapot. Below a leather waistband cum waspie and above bare feet, the fabric swishes and swings around each performer beautifully, conjuring images of western women working new, harsh land and doing their washing in shallow creeks and rivers, in their entirely unsuitable, beautiful European garb (Costume Designers Kiara Bulley & Bianca Bulley. Originating Costume Design Noni Harrison). Most of the movement achieved draws on Korean traditional dance, most of the vocal work taken from Korean opera, leading us from the beauty and wonder of daydreams by a gentle stream, to the devastation of a stormy, horror story nightmare that is any deluge, or deluge of emotion.

 

Han is a word that is widely held to be untranslatable…it is sometimes described as a dark shadow, or a deep-set knot of sorrow that passes between generations and oscillates in that place between despair and hope. Han is presented as the voice of the pansori singer, and in the body of the traditional dancer. It is precipitated and released in endless cycles that require time for meditation and contemplation as well as cathartic outpourings of emotion.

 

Some would say this brand of art is self-indulgent, but I would say maybe the artists are still in denial about what the audience wants. Or needs. There’s a fine line between sharing ritual and respect for cultural traditions, and selling us a style and a story so that we desire more of it. Neideck has little intention, as far as I can tell, of making anything more commercial, but perhaps it’s time to consider entertainment value. It might not take much – it’s already a beautiful work of art. But for whom is the art being made? Why? Why in this country? Neideck is not only a master of the art form, but also, of knowledge and skill sharing, and nurturing the relationships between artists in Australia and Korea. There must be ways to gently bring this work, and work like it to a wider audience; to help bring all of the challenging cross-cultural collaborative work to an even bigger, newer audience, and not just continue to attract the connoisseurs.

 

Deluge has come a long way since its original work-in-progress showing in 2011 (Red Moon Rising & FreeRange Metro Arts), and it probably has something of an eternal life, or more accurately, multiple lives, should Neideck feel the need to stay so close to its themes. It should be cherished, like the oldest Puerh, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t change and benefit from new infusions to be enjoyed by all. I think the beauty and strange power of Deluge in any of its forms is enough to stay with even the most impatient theatregoers, so let’s hope it finds its way across the sea, continues to evolve, and comes back to us on the tide someday.

 

In 2014 Deluge features Hoyoung Tak, Younghee Park, Youngho Kwon, Katrina Cornwell, Sammie Williams, Amy Wollstein & Jeremy Neideck.

 

In 2011 Deluge featured Tak Hoyoung, Mark Hill, Younghee Park, Mary Eggleston, Kat Henry, Ellen Rijs, Jung Minji & Amy Wollstein.

 

Forest – Deluge (2011) from Red Moon Rising on Vimeo.