variants on variety

keith gallasch: sue healey & company, variant

James Berlyn, Kiruna Stamel, Rachelle Hickson, Variant

James Berlyn, Kiruna Stamel, Rachelle Hickson, Variant

ALTHOUGH SUE HEALEY’S PREVIOUS WORK HAS ENTAILED DRAMATICALLY PERFORMATIVE COMPONENTS AND SOPHISTICATED MULTIMEDIA IMAGERY (THE CURIOSITIES, NICHE/JAPAN), I USUALLY ASSOCIATE HER WORK WITH THE KIND OF LYRICAL FORMALISM SO EVIDENT IN THE CHOREOGRAPHY OF THE NICHE AND IN TIME SERIES WHERE SHE HAS EXPLORED THE BODY AT THE INTERSECTION OF TIME AND SPACE—A MOVEMENT LANGUAGE THAT PERSISTS IN HER WORK.

In Variant, Healey has turned explicitly to dance theatre. A promisingly idiosyncratic narrative voiceover from Brian Carbee delineates the lives of the eccentric characters who populate a shared house. Unfortunately, in Healey’s rendition Carbee’s wry, neo-gothic storytelling disappears for long periods and often bears little relationship to what happens on stage—most obviously when Carbee predicts a terrible domestic clash and none eventuates. Expectations are quashed. Of course, lateral connections between narrative and image have long been de rigueur but here they are simply too loose. Just as problematic, some performer personae are more developed than others.

In a show replete with stilt walking, a drag act, stage magic, parodic ‘freak’ acts and some delicate but limited dancing from a pair of ‘twins,’ the music is an uncomfortable mix of cabaret, contemporary classical, neo-baroque and folk (in which the household finds reprieve in mass dancing). Although clearly not short on talent, Variant appears under-developed, neither through-composed nor through-choreographed: there is too much variety at the expense of what might have been a taut comedy of interlocking bodies and the surfacing of subterranean desires.

Sue Healey and Company, Variant, choreography, with the performers, Sue Healey, performers Narelle Benjamin, James Berlyn, Benjamin Hancock. Raelene Hickson, Kiruna Stamell, Nalina Wait, songs and piano Pat H Wilson, design Tobhiyah Feller, lighting Jenny Vila, producers Performing Lines, Seymour Centre; Seymour Centre, Sydney, July 26-Aug 4

Read more about Sue Healey in RealTimeDance

RealTime issue #111 Oct-Nov 2012

9 October 2012
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