Inner lives

Philipa Rothfield: Theatreworks, The Rouge Room: The Petal Waltz

Paul Schembri, Ellipsis

Paul Schembri, Ellipsis

Revealed through a ceremonious parting of the curtains, Trudy Radburn’s The Petal Waltz, part of the Rouge Room program, is a comic, quirky depiction of a certain kind and quality of performance. We imagine we are witness to a formal event, perhaps a concert requiring evening dress on the part of the 3 performers. Their status as performers can only be a matter of inference for we never exactly see what it is that they do, where their expertise lies. But we imagine they have done something, for we hear sustained applause, a standing ovation perhaps. Our interest lies in examining the reactions of these imagined performers to the appreciation of an imagined audience. The fine visibility of their feelings is made manifest in the contortions of their faces, their mien, their controlled gratification. They face us, each savouring their emotions.

The moment is over. Reactions progress to an exhibition of movements, interactions and responses. Lopsided leg extensions, half-arsed encounters and comic juxtapositions occur between the performers. Small gestures are offered, the animation of a hand having a life of its own. It snakes across and hovers over a pair of breasts, aspiring towards genital gratification—receiving short shrift. Sally Smith has a terrific ability to utilise one part of her body whilst the rest stands by, laconically watching. She can also contort her facial features with an innocent earnestness. Monica Tesselaar has a more Butoh-like approach, holding and sustaining an emotional intensity in full frontal proximity. Phillip Gleeson was different again, working extremely well in duet, maintaining his own energy in the face of extremely different movement qualities. I have a sense that The Petal Waltz is an experiment which will, in the future, leave no possibility unexploited and abandon restraint.

Rochelle Carmichael’s Ellipsis is an ambitious work. Structurally it contrasts a trio of dancers with 2 singular performers. It begins with a highly charged intensity of movement between 3 dancers. Another performer, Paul Schembri, cuts across the space rolling through a hollow metal cube. The cube provided the basis of further interactions, perhaps playing a symbolic part in the unfolding interactions of the dance. The trio of dancers worked like a chorus. One of the most effective moments of the work visually was in the trio’s dance along the back wall, flattening their movements, like some kind of frieze. Ellipsis appears to concern the psychical realm. Its tenor was troubled, frenzied, unresolved. Although the work finished with the trio settling on seats, this seemed to be more of an armistice than a resolution. Perhaps dystopic, perhaps pessimistic or perhaps just about the unconscious, Ellipsis concerns the underside of the human realm as expressed in dance.

The Rouge Room: The Petal Waltz, choreographer Trudy Radburn, performers Phillip Gleeson, Sally Smith, Monica Tesselaar; Ellipsis, choreographer Rochelle Carmichael, performers Jessica Lee, Devereux, Rikki Mace, Rebecca Ann Maguzzi, Paul Schembri, Kelly Way; lighting Stephen Weir; Theatreworks, Melbourne, Aug 26-Sep 11

RealTime issue #69 Oct-Nov 2005 pg. 14

© Philipa Rothfield; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 October 2005
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