Falling, breaking and at an end

Philipa Rothfield

Trevor Patrick, Stephanie Lake: Lucy Guerin Company, The Ends of Things

Trevor Patrick, Stephanie Lake: Lucy Guerin Company, The Ends of Things

I love dance works that use bodies to depict the landscape of the mind. Lucy Guerin’s The Ends of Things swoops upon a moment in the life of a man (Trevor Patrick). This man is alone yet not alone—4 dancers populate his internal and external reality. At first they are outside. Maybe they are his thoughts, perhaps memories, metaphors, non-literal others. Then they move into his room, peopling his negative space, manipulating him, calling his agency into question. Later a party is thrown and they become people, you know, the ones who always seem to be having fun. Trevor is both visible and invisible. Hugely funny movements occur because of his flickering visibility.

There is humour despite the pathos. The man is pathetic but in the sense that he displays no self-confidence or sense of mastery over his everyday life. Yet neither is he oppressed by this fact. Patrick has a knack of moving with great simplicity. He does not need to look cool. And this creates quite a contrast with everyone else. Perhaps their skill should suggest a neutral kinaesthetic but this is just not possible. Ros Warby, Brett Daffy and Stephanie Lake are far too good, their movements too elegantly executed.

At one level, The Ends of Things deals with the abstract. The 4 dancers are aspects of the man’s internal life. Like in an Edward Albee or Harold Pinter play, we do not know exactly what these figures stand for. Perhaps they are real; perhaps they are memories, or aspects of the mind. The Ends of Things explores its themes in several ways. It is sad and beautiful. Guerin’s is a thoughtful work beyond the intricacies of her usual choreographic style. Sadly the inspiration for the work came from Jad McAdam who died suddenly this year.

Chunky Move’s latest mix, Combination #3, shown at this year’s Melbourne Festival, consists of 3 works by Phillip Adams, Gideon Obarzanek and Kim Itoh. Adams’ egg-centric, Ei Fallen, hails from Humpty Dumpty. Its fluorescent lights, square dance patch and minimalist bench make the stage look like a battery farm on acid. The costumes are bizarre, padded, white egg shapes. Later, they are replaced and fake arms flap around dancing torsos. The dancers twist and turn in a courtly dance that reminds me of the ball scene from Roman Polanski’s Fearless Vampire Killers. That’s because there is a formal element in Ei Fallen. Formal with a twist. Ei Fallen concerns death but it didn’t make me sad. Perhaps I’m hard-boiled.

Obarzanek’s Crumpled is distinguished by the intervention of its curtain. The red drapes rise and fall independently of the action, which continues regardless. Perhaps you think this is a Brechtian device but it isn’t because there is no particular message to be conveyed. There is a lot of physical interchange, precision, athletic strength and grace but no discernible meaning over and above the movement. Obarzanek describes this piece as “purely structural and formal.” On occasion, individuals escape the curtain’s divide. At one time, two men are in front, perhaps espousing a male gaze. They do a little comedy sketch—suburban boys trying to dance. At one point, fire breaks out. The curtain is an escape, a pathway to safety. The way in which the curtain breaks the viewer’s access is a bit like TV ad breaks; a slash right across the middle of the action.

The last piece in Combination #3 was Itoh’s Butterfly and Me. I found it difficult to view this justly after the first two works. Its style of movement was quite different, beginning with many rolls on the floor. There was also a section where people spoke, travelling pathways etched in light. One part had Luke George address the audience, incorporating elements of the here and now in his text. Although Obarzanek wrote in the program notes of an “imaginary world” shared by all three choreographers, I had a feeling that Itoh’s world was quite different—both from the other two and from mine. I think I would need to see more of that world in order to enter fully into it.

The Ends of Things (for Jad McAdam), Lucy Guerin Company, choreographer Lucy Guerin, sound (original concept) Jad McAdam, composition Franc Tetaz, design Dorotka Sapinska. Combination #3, Chunky Move, Ei Fallen, choreographer Phillip Adams, set and lighting design Gideon Obarzanek, costume and set design Dorotka Sapinska; Crumpled, choreographer Gideon Obarzanek, composer Hugh Covill, costume David Anderson; Butterfly and Me, choreographer Kim Itoh, costume David Anderson, lighting Margie Medlin; National Theatre, Melbourne International Festival of Arts, Melbourne, October 19-28.

RealTime issue #40 Dec-Jan 2000 pg. 8

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

1 December 2000
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