Posts Tagged ‘Judith Wright Centre

22
Sep
16

Rainbow Vomit

Rainbow Vomit

Brisbane Festival, Channel Nine & Dancenorth

Judith Wright Centre Performance Space

September 21–24 2016

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

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We … set out to create a low-fi phantasmagoria – a world in which dream, fantasy, illusion and play were funnelled through unreality …

Kyle Page and Amber Haines

Dancenorth’s Rainbow Vomit was created to appeal to a young audience, but also to people of all ages. With its sense of fun and play, its colour and ingenuity in design, and unfettered naturalistic movement, it engages everyone. On opening night of its Brisbane Festival season at the Judith Wright Centre, it was lovely to hear the reactions of children in the audience, laughing and showing their surprise, delight and curiosity.

The title of this piece, directed and choreographed by Artistic Director Kyle Page and Artistic Assistant/Rehearsal Director Amber Haines, is intriguing. Does it refer to the overload of information and entertainment from electronic media? Or the gushing forth of creative ideas? Or creativity unleashed in the medium of dance, away from the realm of the iPad, the smartphone and the computer?

Rainbow Vomit starts off quietly in black and white, and through various scenes, builds to a frenzy of colour, sound, imagination and movement. Lighting and set designer Govin Ruben, costume designer Andrew Treloar, and composer Alisdair Macindoe have created an incredible rainbow world, full of surreal creatures, with a soundtrack combining voice, sound effects (such as watery slurping and gurgling), clapping, drumming, bells, and simple, repeated tunes.

At first, the dancers (Harrison Hall, Mason Kelly, Jenni Large, Ashley McLellan and Georgia Rudd) are plainly dressed in black and white pyjama-style tops and pants, and sitting on clear, colourless plastic exercise balls.

They at first appear to be watching TV, their synchronised reactions and exclamations showing the contrast between the excitement of what must be on the invisible screen, and their own relatively passive state. Then they move to gazing down and swiping at invisible iPads, while the soundtrack plays children’s voices, electronically blurred, describing how they feel when using these devices.

The exercise balls become objects to play with instead of sitting on. The dancers fall on them, bounce on them, tumble over and around them, and dribble them. It is exhilarating and fun to watch, and you feel yourself wishing you could do that too.

The style of movement is established in this segment. It is at the same time very natural-seeming, yet athletic; relaxed and flexible, yet powerful.

The dancers move fluidly and through every plane without pause, apparently effortlessly. Their energy, expressiveness and prowess are phenomenal.

A large exercise ball morphs gradually into a pingpong ball for the next segment, provoking shrieks of joy from the younger audience members. The dancers now appear to be robots, with pingpong balls in their mouths, like some alien kind of teeth. They blow the balls out of their mouths at the audience and each other.

Next, in multicoloured costumes, and with their long hair flung forwards over their faces, Jenni Large and Georgia Rudd form a segmented creature, moving as one. In ‘plank’ position, with their heads pressed together, they form a bridge, and then entwine, roll and jump together. Harrison Hall flies through a solo in this scene, leaping with abandon.

A silver virtual reality helmet is the focus of the next scene. The electronic flashing, buzzing and crackling emitted when a dancer puts on the helmet contrast with the twittering of birds and joyful expressions of the other dancers when the helmet is removed.

Ashley McLellan’s character is fascinated by the helmet, and while wearing it she is manipulated by a dancer behind her, waving her arms and body like a sea creature moved by underwater currents. The changing colour of the light – red, green and purple – leads into the colour extravaganza of the final scenes.

For these scenes, the audience (and the dancers at first) don ‘fireworks glasses’ made of holographic diffraction film. These multiply images and refract light into myriads of rainbows. The green rims glow in the ultraviolet light, creating an eerily comic effect when the dancers move in a close group (multiplied many-fold by our glasses).

The psychedelic wonder is cranked up even further when, on a darkened stage, the dancers each hold two small lights. As they move the lights, we see an explosion of moving rainbows in very intense colours in an almost out-of-body experience.

When the main lights come on again for the final scene, there is a riot of colour. At first just hanging between columns at the side, and then filling more and more spaces across the stage, are multicoloured strands of UV-reactive rope (7.6 kilometres of it altogether). The colours glow in the UV light, as do drifts of coloured pingpong balls on the floor.

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The final incarnation of the dancers is in the form of surreal imaginary creatures, including two unicorns (with flexible over-head masks and glowing lips), while the dancer wearing the magic helmet is on a swing, swooping through it all.

This show is a joyous and uplifting experience, full of wonderful dance and magical effects.

And you get to keep the glasses! To prolong the magic, if you are NOT driving (!) try them out after an evening performance. The smallest intersection with traffic lights becomes a wonderland, while travelling along a six-lane road is mindblowing!

31
Aug
16

Muscle Memory

 

Muscle Memory

Judith Wright Centre & Collusion

Judith Wright Centre Performance Space

August 17–20 2016

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

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Muscles flex and memories resurface in this all-Australian evening of chamber ballets …

Muscle Memory program notes

Muscle Memory is a varied and polished program of chamber music and chamber ballet. Contemporary music ensemble Collusion has partnered with choreographer Gareth Belling and dancers from the Queensland Ballet’s Pre-Professional Program to present three short works for small groups of dancers, and two duos.

Belling was originally commissioned by the Queensland Ballet to create these works for the company over a period from 2006 to 2011. The costumes were all designed by the Queensland Ballet’s Noelene Hill.

The first piece, Urban Myths (to Nigel Westlake’s piano trio of the same name) is for three couples. Inspired by photographs on the walls in his grandparents’ house, Belling wondered what lay behind the posed images of happy 1950s couples. In his ballet, one pair of the three has a troubled and violent relationship, gradually revealed in increasing intensity, with the other two couples being drawn into the conflict.

Lifts feature prominently in the choreography, displaying the strength and poise of the young dancers straight away. The movement patterns also have the dancers advancing and retreating in a wave-like effect.

The youth and freshness of the dancers contrasted with the dark themes and sober costumes of this piece. It was hard to believe in them being enmeshed in the unhappiness they were trying to portray. But they danced beautifully, and straight away demonstrated the success of the QB Pre-professional Program.

Urban Myths was followed by Transference, a cheeky flirtation between a female and a male dancer. The music too, is a duo, the Violin and Piano Sonata by Australian-Ukrainian composer Catherine Likhuta.

The dominant feature of the dance duo is the female dancer’s white tutu, with its medium-length petal-like skirt. At the start of the work she is on the floor folded into the skirt, and appears from it like a flower opening. Later, the tutu droops downwards, or is folded up around her torso, exposing the underside of the tutu, and the body. The body of the male dancer, while he was wearing less (a white Tshirt and grey briefs), did not appear as exposed.

After this interlude came Transition Sequence for a group of eight dancers, to Carl Vine’s String Quartet No. 3. At times the dancers formed a close group, with quick movements darting out from the group, like a small colony of organisms moving as one. At other times the group disassociated, and two couples were featured.

The costumes for both male and female dancers in this piece were short, stylish, grey tunics with a Grecian-style bodice. Those for the female dancers were particularly short, and kept riding up, destroying their elegant effect.

Following the interval came a second short duo, Mourning Song, to Paul Stanhope’s Songline (for violin and cello). In this piece a woman is mourning the death of a man, and also celebrating his life. The woman is dressed in a dark-purplish long dress, and appears gaunt and grief-stricken. The man is a ghostly figure, dressed in grey.

The music for this piece, with the violinist and the cellist seated downstage left, made a great impact, and dominated the dance. At one point, the cello and violin were as if stridently calling out in the same strong, beating rhythm. The power of the performance by Benjamin Greaves (violin) and Danielle Bentley (cello) eclipsed the youthful, earnest performance of the dancers.

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The final work on the program was Refraction to Philip Eames’s composition for piano quintet, Annealed Cyan Matt, in its premiere performance. Refraction has been rechoreographed to this commissioned score after first being created to Schnittke’s Concerto Grosso No. 1.

This is a playful work, with one sprite-like female dancer leading the others into various energetic routines. The lighting design (by Ben Hughes) features a refracted band of rainbow-colours that the dancers move in and out of, creating interesting colour effects.

The dancers wear bustiere-like white bodices, and white briefs for the men, and intriguing skirts made of clustered thick white loops for the women. (Again, these skirts tended to ride up distractingly.) The general effect was reminiscent of Victorian or Edwardian circus performers, and the strength and flexibility of the male dancers, in particular, reinforced this impression.

Overall, this was an entertaining program, showing off the skill and attack of a strong group of emerging dancers. The classically based choreography (with the women on pointe in three of the five pieces) suited them.

The strength and assurance of the Collusion musicians’ performance and the music they played were spellbinding, showcasing the work of five different Australian composers.

During this season of Muscle Memory, Collusion also promoted their crowd funding campaign, which will help them to provide free community concerts for people with a disability and their families in Queensland. These concerts give people the opportunity to experience live music in safe and accessible spaces.

27
Jun
16

If _ Was _

 

If _ Was _

Judith Wright Centre & Dancenorth

Judith Wright Centre Performance Space

June 23–25 2016

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

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If Form Was Shifted is a virtuosic reflection of the thought process structured through group manipulation.

Ross McCormack

If Never Was Now is a surreal hive of buzzing activity reflecting the beauty and brutality of the natural world.

Stephanie Lake

Dancenorth’s Artistic Director Kyle Page set choreographers Stephanie Lake and Ross McCormack a challenge, the end result of which is the double bill If _ Was _.

The challenge was for each to create a work of the same set duration, to sound selected from the same composition (by Robin Fox), using lighting from one design (by Bosco Shaw), and costume design based on one pattern (by Andrew Treloar). During the creation process, neither knew anything about the other’s work.

While these conditions might appear restrictive and likely to produce similar results, the works create very different impressions, McCormack’s dark and more introspective, and Lake’s vivid and full of energy. That said, they do have in common a robotic, ‘popping’ style of movement at times, and in both, the dancers seem to represent non-human creatures living in different dimensions of our world.

For the titles and themes of their works, the choreographers filled in the blanks. McCormack created If Form Was Shifted, which reflects group manipulation of the thought process, and manipulation of the body. Lake created If Never Was Now, a piece about creatures changing in response to a frenetically changing world.

The choreographers chose different segments and combinations of the electronic sound composition. These range from continuous reverberating chords, buzzing noises, repetitive phrases and beating rhythms, overlaid at times by bell sounds or beeping noises.

Each set of costumes creates a very different effect. The trackpants, singlets and shorts for McCormack’s work are dark and unobtrusive; for Lake’s, the dancers all wear trackpants (red with a white stripe for the men, and deep salmon with a red stripe for the women), the men are bare-chested and the women wear flesh-coloured bras.

If Form Was Shifted is the first work on the program. It begins and ends with four of the five dancers standing around speakers on the floor towards the back of the space, and a lone dancer downstage left. This lone figure is a male dancer at the beginning, and a female dancer at the end, echoing the theme of transformation.

The combination of the lighting and the dark costumes emphasises the dancers’ arms and their muscularity, particularly in the first solo, where the man’s hands with splayed fingers are a focal point. In another section, dancers contort their faces into rubbery grimaces. In the final grouping, the lone female dancer moves like a long-legged bird.

The most striking moments of the work involve the whole group moving as one organism, or one shifting aggregate of organisms, with the boundaries between individuals vanishing. Occasionally one dancer rises to the top of a huddle and continues to move on the backs of the other dancers, or is extruded from the centre of a group and reincorporated. The impression is of a constant flux or process of transformation.

The second work, If Never Was Now, opens with two dancers in a circle of white on the floor. The circle has texture, and I wonder what it’s made of – rice? sand? The answer is small polystyrene beads.

The circle is soon broken up by the dancers, whose movements sweep and fan the beads into different patterns on the floor, and into fluid drifts and flurries, with mesmerising effect. They also press the beads onto their faces and bodies as decoration, resembling dots of paint.

Changes in the lighting add other dimensions to the beads, different angles making them look like a relief map on the floor, or showing up every bead, while ultraviolet light makes them glow. Finally, a column of the beads drifts down over the one dancer remaining on stage, and as she sits and then lies down, her movements make the whole column undulate like smoke.

The movement in this piece is generally fast, with turns and jumps, grappling, stamping and running, as well as floorwork. The dancers appear to be creatures fiercely intent on living to the utmost. As in the first piece, their movement is birdlike at times, and they move like a flock at one point. Two dancers mirror each other in one segment, shimmying and increasing their range and speed of movement.

The Dancenorth dancers (Harrison Hall, Mason Kelly, Jenni Large, Ashley McLellan and Georgia Rudd) are strong and superfit. In both pieces, they show an incredible athleticism that really lets fly in Lake’s work.

Kyle Page must be pleased with the result of his ‘fill the blanks’ experiment. Both pieces transcend the limitations of the conditions he has imposed, appear to fulfil their choreographers’ intentions, and are absorbing and exhilarating to watch.

03
May
16

Alice Night: Culture, how could you?

 

ALICE NIGHT: Culture, how could you?

Judith Wright Centre

Judith Wright Centre Performance Space

April 29 2016

Reviewed by Katy Cotter

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Firstly, I have to mention how beautiful and transformative the performance space at the Judith Wright Centre is. I have seen many a show at this venue and each time I have walked into a completely different world.

Now, I admit I hadn’t heard of singer songwriter Alice Night before so I listened to her songs online and was instantly whisked back to a point in my life dominated by the chaos of first love. Night’s lyrics are bleeding-heart-on-the-sleeve raw and brutally honest. Her performance slash debut album launch Culture How Could You? is a glimpse into her mind; tangled musings about society, politics and cultural oddities. Night was joined onstage by an extraordinary team of musicians, sound and visual designers, singers and performers, and all of them breathed as one.

The audience was invited on a journey through sound and song back to the innocence of childhood, back through the history and the woes of humanity, and catapulted back to our current world that is over stimulated by the media and consumerism, reeling with pain and desperately searching for meaning, for hope. Yes, these are huge ideas to comprehend but the performance is so perfectly balanced that these ideas zip through the air like shooting stars, careful not to linger too long and overwhelm.

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Composer Robert Davidson’s arrangements are exceptional; flawlessly linking one moment to the next, though there is no doubt the heart of the show is Alice Night and her tantalising haunting and primal voice. She doesn’t just sing the words, you can tell that she’s lived them, and that she carries them deep within her. She has this ethereal power; her eyes connected with everyone in the audience as if she were whispering secrets.

Night is currently studying a masters degree in writing for performance at NIDA and her philosophical formula is ART + HONESTY = ALCHEMY.

I absolutely felt I was part of a rare and special event. It is true that music holds its own magic in connecting people. It can heal, it can evoke memory and most importantly it can conjure hope, which I felt was Alice’s secret that she whispered to me. Don’t worry, I trust you all with it!

If you ever get the opportunity to see Alice Night in the future, I strongly suggest seizing the moment. This woman is incredibly talented and her work is bold, insightful and inviting.         

09
Apr
16

Kaleidoscope

 

Kaleidoscope

Judith Wright Centre & Company 2 supported by Flipside Circus

Judith Wright Centre Performance Space

April 6 – 9 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

When you change the way you look at things the things you look at change.

Sometimes the heart breaks and cracks open because so much love is bursting through.

– Ethan Wharton-Langridge

Kaleidoscope is a remarkable circus show that hopes to bring to life the colour, chaos and incredible beauty of Ethan’s everyday life.

– Chelsea McGuffin

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“Everyday life is full of wonder. Even the lighting changing from white and plain to beautiful colour reflects the beauty of the little things that make Ethan’s life possibly better than our own… When the lighting reflects on the ceiling it’s like a dream…”

 Poppy Eponine

This show is pure love. It’s play and love and laughter, and kids supporting kids just by being with each other, near each other, adoring each other before judging each other. It’s a valuable reminder of so many things.

The kids are sleeping – or trying to sleep – tossing and turning, climbing over each other and resettling, and while we see them moving across the floor the live feed filmed from above creates an optical illusion, projected onto the scrim, turning the kids into scrambling superheroes with the power to leap and fly through the air. Their floor tower crumbles, and the boy at the highest point flaps his chicken wing arms to stay afloat above it all, before a new tower reforms and he takes his place at the top again.

The kids disperse and a phone rings. Ethan moves to pick up the handset of a Bakelite phone, although it takes a little while to get to it with the other performers in the way, and we enjoy lovely interactions as he finds a different way around each one before reading a monologue that answers many of our questions as the show begins: he sees the world differently, people see him differently; he leads a different life.

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When Ethan was four years old he was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome (ASD). His mum, Johanna Wharton, wrote a book about his day-to-day life and this show brings to life Chelsea McGuffin’s imagining of those daily experiences.

…Ethan has been poked, prodded, analysed, attended three different schools. He is underweight, hearing impaired and has adult teeth arriving in all directions. Our household has been through screaming, squealing, squeezing, bouncing, obsessions, disappearances, sleepless years, diets, hospitals, surgeries and all things unexplainable and unidentifiable. But I do not want to tell those stories. Because between the lines is a little boy who is articulate, eccentric, expressive, engaging and brave.

Through his uniqueness he brings clarity to our complicated lives. He brings joy outside the limits of our routine and revelation that cannot be measured. Through his uniqueness he dispels our walls of safety. One day, I saw him mesmerized by the droplets of water dripping from the tap, and I decided to watch a droplet too… I was taken into his world…silent and magnified. Pure. It is the nature of something beautiful, wild, untamable, inspiring.

The show is a typically eclectic mix: balance acts, a pole act of strength and control to rival some adult performances, and an elegant aerial hoop routine set mysteriously in a corner of long white hanging pieces, which are pulled aside by the performers. Performers’ bodies become the floor for Ethan to walk across. The acts all involve Ethan to some extent. The kids clearly adore him.

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This is an amazing ensemble of young circus performers, a tight-knit team who obviously care for one another, and take Ethan under their collective wing. That safe space feels expansive – it’s very hard to stay in our seats and resist running down to jump and play in a mass of feathers, the glorious result of a pillow fight! Pre-recorded footage plays across the scrim, gorgeous, joyous images of the performers pillow fighting and laughing and living in the moment.

As Ethan rides a stationary bicycle centrestage we watch more stunning images, this time a beautifully created paper collage streetscape. The edges of this part of the world are torn and nothing looks quite as perfect as we might imagine – or remember – it to be. The action in front is fast-paced and hilarious, but the imagery has a nostalgic feel. We don’t make the connection between the bicycle and the images until after the show, when McGuffin assures me she will find a way to feature the pedal-powered projector in a future production. The ensemble run and race and leapfrog and tumble to keep up with Ethan on his bike, and take turns to catch up and jump up and strike precarious poses before the segment abruptly comes to an end, as if the director has suddenly shouted, “CUT!”. The kids shrug and smile and move into their next positions.

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I love the costumes, which are reversible: simple cotton frocks tied twice (at the back and front), which are flipped, turning the stark white into bright colours and bold patterns. After so much time spent in Ethan’s sphere, how could one not become this colourful?

But one girl wears a dress that is white on both sides – she’s confounded by the lack of colour when it comes time to reverse it – but it’s white for a purpose. We watch as she sits gingerly on the stool and plays the toy piano. It’s pink, and its cute plinks are the chords of the piece we’ve just heard in a musical routine involving a xylophone and eerie wine glasses. The kids paint her so that when she performs her aerial (tissue) act she leaves a rainbow on the fabric. The impact Ethan has on all their lives. The impact any child has on all our lives, but particularly of those who see the world as Ethan does, in tiny fragments of colour, magnified, magnificent.

Under the guidance of Chelsea McGuffin and David Carberry, Flipside and Company 2 have discovered a perfect match of energies, minds and hearts. Kaleidoscope is a heartfelt exploration of seemingly random tiny moments, which exist for all of us, but are noticed by few.

 

Final performances today at 2pm and 7:30pm.

 

 

30
Mar
16

#FirstWorldWhiteGirls

 

#FirstWorldWhiteGirls

Judith Wright Centre & WIV

Judith Wright Centre Performance Space

March 17 – 19 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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Tiffany (Judy Hainsworth) and Kendall (Caitlin Oliver Parker) have enjoyed a sold out debut season (2014), an enthusiastic reception at the Matilda Awards (2015), and a sold out Adelaide Fringe Festival run complete with four and a half star reviews (2016) before their return to the Judy this year.

I’m possibly the only person in the country to not rave about #FirstWorldWhiteGirls

These two incongruous characters introduce themselves as a trust fund princess and a wealthy husband’s trophy wife, yet they fret about paying off their credit cards. They LOL at the thought of op-shopping yet they wear vintage floral frocks, Grandma’s pearls and plain pumps (to hide a bad pedi? Mismatched Shellac? It makes no sense!). While it’s true that vintage fashion never really goes out of style if you know how to accessorise, it’s a bit rich to expect us to believe that these rich bitches would opt for 1950s Tupperware party hostess frocks rather than Kardashian branded (or, I love it but let’s face it, Kookai) once-seen-never-seen-again bodycons, contoured cheek bones, long silk lashes and perfectly Blow Dry Bar(ed) Hollywood hair.  

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The setting is far from lavish, with pull-up banners, and token Pellegrino bottles and a Tiffany bag pre-set on a high table. From the outset I’m at odds with the conflicting elements of this production.   

#FirstWorldWhiteGirls looks and sounds like it wants to be an outrageous comedy – it sells itself as such – but it’s not as outrageously funny as it claims to be and it’s not nearly politically incorrect enough or sassy or crass enough, although it seems to satisfy the needs of at least half the second night audience. The first world white girl problems are the sort we see hashtagged on social media, and they’re basic and familiar and funny; you know, too hot without the air con on and too cold in it… But when we realise the girls are not reading the audience contributions (they appear to have the lines memorised), I feel cheated. I think the Tiffany bags have been switched! Perhaps at one stage of the tour they tried to read only the audience’s suggestions and it was difficult to decipher handwriting, or the first world problems just weren’t dramatic / problematic enough.

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Another #FirstWorldWhiteGirl blunder is to have overlooked the need for an accompanist, surely a vital component of Cabaret? Without the musicianship and witty banter of a talented accompanist on stage – a Worboys, as we say (we literally say it aloud, i.e. “What they need is a Worboys!”) would be ideal – we politely sit through pre-recorded tracks, penned by Hainsworth and arranged by the seriously talented James Dobinson (was he unavailable? Unaffordable?), which slow the show, contributing to its clunky feel. A combination of original tunes (most are too long by a verse or two) and re-arrangements of popular songs leaves us without a singular style or theme to the show. The best musical number sheds light on labiaplasty and should set the tone for the rest of the show, but no. It’s a stroke of politically incorrect, hilarious genius that can’t be repeated. The girls close with an amusing number about the importance of acquiring the ultimate accessories: black babies to go with their new Mercedes, but the encore that follows this is subdued and Hainsworth barely whispers, “Thank you” before leaving the stage.

I’m so disappointed. Everything I experience is at odds with what I’d expected.

I’d like to see the stakes raised and bigger risks taken. I’d like to be horrified when I realise I recognise these girls, that sometimes I have to teach these girls! And drink with their mothers!

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With a bit more vocal clout and genuine confidence in some more sophisticated material, Hainsworth and Parker will prove themselves even better performers. I wonder… (I wonder how much time this version of the production has had with Lewis Jones, who was passed the director’s hat by Cienda McNamara)… It seems as if a formula has worked in the past and no one feels the need to stray from it…well, clearly, with a history of sell-out shows, it works! But Cabaret and Comedy are evolving genres, which demand high stakes, compelling stories and convincing performances that must grow from authenticity, and the performers’ genuine connection with their character, the audience and each other. This hugely successful show, which will enjoy a regional tour of Queensland in April, is a missed opportunity artistically, and I’d love to see it stripped back and redeveloped to truly reflect the talents of these versatile performers, and the shallow world of the reality TV and social media obsessed, unapologetically self-possessed first world white girls in my neighbourhood.   

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21
Feb
16

Knee Deep

 

Knee Deep

Casus Circus

Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts

February 18–20 2015

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

I think it’s just a beautiful thing to put fragility and strength together in one show. There are so many different ways of using that with acrobatics. It’s a hugely physical show. We’ve spent an hour jumping on each other, swinging from trapezes, so we’re very tired and we need a lot of strength, but also it’s about being tender with each other as well.

Jesse Scott, Casus Circus

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Using eggs as a symbol of both fragility and strength, Casus Circus’s show Knee Deep frequently reminds us of the opposition between these qualities. The egg, like the human body, is fragile and breakable, but also strong.

Performers Kali Retallack and Jesse Scott literally ‘walk on eggshells’, proving that this can be done without breakages (if you are very careful and very skilful). This act metaphorically represents many circus acts, in which performers achieve feats that are impossible for us untrained people, and dangerous for the fragile body.

At the start of the show, Retallack walks on three half-dozen cartons of eggs, with Scott moving the back carton around in front of her to allow her to take another step. Later, Scott himself stands with each foot on a dozen eggs in a carton on a small table, which is in turn balancing on the tops of four bottles. These moments are filmed and projected on a large screen at the back of the stage, showing Scott’s feet very close up, like the feet of a giant – comical and also a bit sinister.

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Other ‘egg’ moments occur through the production. Early in the show, one egg is held by different cast members through a complex balancing and acrobatic routine, finishing with Retallack standing on the shoulders of Jesse Huygh, who in turn is balancing on the shoulders of Scott. Retallack drops the egg into a glass bowl, where it smashes – in a clear analogy with the fragility of the human body if it dropped from this height.

To the sound of a French chanteuse and guitar, Scott performs a whimsically flirtatious ‘duo’ with an egg in an eggcup on the floor, balancing and contorting around it, and (eyewateringly) standing and jumping on his bent-over toes.

The acrobatic routines throughout the show are spectacular, and dance-like in their continuous flow, with many exciting lifts and throws. These intersperse the equipment-based routines including straps, silk, aerial ring, hula hoops, and static trapeze.

There were many moments – too many to describe here! – when the audience applauded and/or cried out in amazement at the feats performed: for instance, the drop manoeuvre in Natano Fa’anana’s aerial silk act; Huygh’s feats of strength and endurance, hanging by one arm from the straps; and Retallack, in an acrobatic duo with Scott, suspended by her mouth from his hand.

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In one of the most spectacular, Retallack lay on the floor with Scott standing on her, then got onto all fours, and finally to her feet with Scott standing on her shoulders. Retallack is tiny, and Scott tall – it was a stupendous feat. Another stellar moment came when Scott stood on his head on the bar of the static trapeze, with Retallack hanging from his hands, and extended his legs out away from the support of the trapeze ropes.

A contrasting act for Scott was his dexterous and parodic performance with the hula hoop, in dappled pink lighting, and accompanied by the romantic song Dream a Little Dream of Me. In the background, Fa’anana and Huygh clowned around as if learning to hula hoop.

Retallack performed a lovely routine on the aerial ring, rolling, spinning, and stretching in hyperextended poses. She is tiny and elegant, but very strong, and has an aura of appealing mischief and playfulness, which particularly came through in her act on the ground with a small metal ring, through which she contorted and extracted herself in various ways (at one point going through the ring bottom-first).

Fa’anana, too, displays a sense of mischief in a routine that starts with him trying to pluck an imaginary something from the air – a feather, a mosquito? Some kind of insect, apparently, as he stomps on it and then starts a very masculine body percussion routine, for which he is stripped of his black pants and waistcoat and revealed in grey stretch shorts.

The three other performers join him in fast acrobatics and unflinching body percussion. Scott and Huygh have also shed their pants and waistcoats to appear in shorts and a short unitard, respectively, while Retallack’s short grey and black dress has gone, revealing her in black pants and crop top. Fa’anana had one shoulder taped and, distractingly, one end of the tape was coming loose.

One small section of the show didn’t seem to quite fit with the rest. Crouched at a small table, Huygh folded a tiny origami figure with his back to Fa’anana, who drew the figure on a pane of glass as Huygh folded. They ended up with a 3D and 2D representation of the same thing. Huygh was filmed and the action projected at the back of the stage, but it was still hard to see what he was doing.

The four performers work extremely hard in this one-hour show, and you can often see the effort and the muscles trembling. In the sense of being totally engrossed, and engaged in a very difficult task, ‘knee deep’ is a catchy and appropriate title for the show.

The only ‘frills’ are the lighting (Rob Scott) and the soundtrack (which is not credited – it would have been nice to know what all the pieces of music were). Other than that, it’s just the performers themselves and the circus equipment, and no fancy effects.

On opening night, the large and lively audience, swelled by the presence of school groups, applauded enthusiastically throughout, and leapt to their feet at the conclusion of the show.

Knee Deep is a great achievement, full of breathtaking feats, as well as being engaging and amusing.

Casus presents Knee Deep (promo) from Casus circus on Vimeo.




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