Posts Tagged ‘dust





Dancenorth & Liminal Spaces

Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre

September 19 – 22 2018


Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway



Upon birth, we arrive into a world in which those who precede us determine everything.


From this lottery of birth we inherit the architecture of both restriction and opportunity in countless manifestations. Structures, barriers and borders pre-exist, and past tense illuminates both our present and future thinking…




Dancenorth’s work Dust premiered at this year’s Brisbane Festival. It is inspired by weighty and solemn concepts, outlined by directors/choreographers Kyle Page (Dancenorth’s Artistic Director) and Amber Haines (Associate Artistic Director) in their program notes.


Page and Haines are married and have a baby son, whose birth last year led them to contemplate ‘the architecture of inheritance’, and to think about the present, past and future worlds, and how we shape these worlds and they shape us.


In the post-performance Q&A on opening night, Page referred to the set for Dust, designed by Liminal Studio, as ‘another performer’. It dominates this work. At first, a large, wedge-shaped wall looms over the performers. Angled across the stage, it separates one dancer (Ashley McLellan) from the six others (Samantha Hines, Mason Kelly, Jenni Large, Georgia Rudd, Felix Sampson and Jack Ziesing). The themes of barriers, restrictions, insiders/outsiders and inclusion/exclusion continue throughout the work.


The power of the soundscape matches that of the set. Created by composer/sound designer Alisdair Macindoe and Canadian composer/musician Jessica Moss, it surges, booms and pounds, ebbing to quieter moments with sounds like bells, harmonic chanting, droning, and distorted voices calling.


Threading their way among the recorded electronic sounds are echoes of Middle Eastern and Eastern European music. Moss plays the violin live during the show, electronically modifying the sound of her instrument.


Early on, the dancers dismantle the wall into its constituent box-like blocks. As the work progresses, they move the boxes into various configurations: a ramp, a pile of rocks, a low wall around the stage perimeter, and parallel rows of columns.


The action continues with duos and solos while this happens, but shifting the boxes takes up much of the dancers’ time and effort. (The dancer representative at the Q&A, Felix Sampson, confirmed the impression that the blocks are heavy.)



Once the arrangements of blocks are in place, striking images are created by the dancers moving and posing on and round them. A group moves and stands on a ramp, while a lone man creeps alongside. A woman stands and lifts her arm, like a priest or an ancient oracle. A group of dancers bow and abase themselves to a pile of blocks; one woman walks slowly among them and they follow her.


It is as if we are witnessing some ancient ritual in a sacred space. This effect is accentuated by the configuration of the Powerhouse Theatre, with the audience in tiers of seats rising above the stage, as in an Ancient Greek theatre.


The dancers perform heroically, and one can only wonder at their energy. The quality of movement is athletic and grounded, fluid at times and jerky and robotic at others. McLellan in particular impresses with her intensity, strength and fluidity.


The pattern of the movement is full of circles: for example, using the impetus of whirling around in lifts, or rotating on the spot like a dervish, or running in circles, and people circling each other. The group of dancers sometimes huddle in a circle, moving in close action and reaction to each other, like a flock of birds. They also undulate in slow motion, like a group of sea creatures. There is a great deal of floor work.



The lighting (Niklas Pajanti) is subtle, often quite dim, with simple minimal colours that correspond well with the cosmic soundscape and the monumental set – such as gold, and pink strengthening to red. These are the only touches of colour other than shades of grey (for the backdrop, the wall, and the costumes).


The costumes (Harriet Oxley) are lovely. In contrast to the dominating set and the sound, and more aligned with the mood of the lighting, they are delicate and almost transparent. Of fine, pale, lightly patterned fabric, the combinations of tunics, wide pants, long skirts, and sleeveless tops are reminiscent of Ancient Greek or Roman draperies.


The whole creative team was represented on the 9-strong panel for the Q&A (facilitated by Bradley Chatfield, formerly with Sydney Dance Company, and more recently with Dancenorth and the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts). All were very passionate about their particular discipline and about the collaborative process of creating Dust.


The different creative elements in this work all make a powerful impression. However, for me they did not gel as a whole: rather, they seemed to be struggling for dominance, a struggle won by the set. At around 70 minutes, the work is not over-long, but is repetitious in parts.


In the current drought, the title Dust might first suggest clouds of windblown particles of soil. However, on reflection, the biblical idea that we are all made of dust seems more relevant: ‘… out of [the ground] wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return’ (Genesis 3:19).





Brisbane Powerhouse & Hubcap Productions

Powerhouse Theatre

22 – 24 November 2013


Reviewed by Meredith Walker




A roving theatre performance incorporating side shows, rock ’n’ roll, film and a vortex of dust.

Written by Donna Jackson, Dust features a choir of 50 who come together in concert with Mark Seymour from the iconic Australian band Hunters and Collectors.

This fast-paced multimedia theatre production takes you on an almighty journey — between the headlines, the corporate line and the legal circus — to the real story of asbestos in Australia.




 Dust is a collaboration quite unlike any other theatrical experience. This is immediately clear upon entry into the Powerhouse Theatre, which is transformed into a town marketplace amongst which audience members are encouraged to wander during breaks in the main stage activity. Booths contain a variety of installations presented by teachers, hairdressers, bricklayers and the like, ranging from the comedy of Jeff Turpin as a 2011 floods Mud Army man, to the poignancy of widow Claire Kennedy’s phone conversation with Telstra in an attempt to finally cancel her dead husband’s account.


Nobody told me it was dangerous.


While Act 1 represents an interesting variance to traditional theatre expectations, its execution could be improved. With spruiking performers competing for audience attention, it is often difficult to access and hear what is going on within each booth, especially with a large audience.




Presented on the main stage is a (sometimes comic) lecture on asbestos and the early history of James Hardie, complimented by Mark Seymour (of Hunters and Collectors fame) doing what he does best, performing live on stage. The power and lyricism of his Lights of Antarctica and Secrets of Camellia Dust pack a huge emotional punch.


Indeed, the music is the show’s highlight, with Seymour’s haunting delivery complemented by the Dust chorus, comprised of the Brisbane Combined Unions Choir.


The second half of the show offers a more conventional approach, during which stories glimpsed in the booths are expanded through song. Comedy pervades, and far from being depressing, the production is joyous and touching. The politics are acknowledged, but not dwelled upon. Given the manner in which mentions of James Hardie and Gina Rinehart are met with audience jeers and heckles, this is probably a wise choice by writer Donna Jackson, whose script represents James Hardie Industries thorough a corporate businessmen who reflects on a ‘difficult year’, assures shareholders their money is safe and requests a salary raise for directors.




Reality is evident when the audience is shown x-ray projections and video footage of real life suffers, explaining their stories.


Though it is both confronting and moving to hear them tell of breathing with what feels like ‘lungs full of fishhooks,’ the inclusion of their words is a credit to the producers who research and present local stories from each place the show is performed.


Similarly provoking is the revelation of the range of domestic products that were made with asbestos (including toothpaste and playdough) and the fact that health risks were documented since the 1930s but kept hidden by manufacturers. So central is this educational aspect, that as audience members depart, we are each given a sample bag of information on the issue.




However, the show is not just an exploration of the grim history of the Australian asbestos industry and the tragedy of all those who have lost their lives. It was developed as a celebration of the fortitude and bravery of those affected by asbestos related diseases. And in this, Dust is certainly successful. As I overheard a fellow patron comment at its conclusion, “it was very lively for something about death.”