Fallings, failings, squishings

Eleanor Brickhill: Mobile States 2

Naida Chinner, Once Bitten

Naida Chinner, Once Bitten

Sometimes it’s nice to be seduced. In The Morning After, the Night Before, performer and choreographer Shannon Bott invites the audience to a collective assignation, from a soap box in the foyer of Performance Space—a charming kind of spruik—her body and voice advertising an open ingenuousness with a touch of taut sleaze. She has a remarkable face, dewy and bold, like her initial invitation full of cliché and innuendo and she works with sentiments expressed in the worst women’s magazines which we love to deride but recognise enough to raise an embarrassed giggle. She invites us to meet her inside the theatre, to participate in her illusions of wide-eyed love and naked lust. She tells us stories: The Princess and the Pea, the one about the bartender and several other guys who end up in her living room. The work sets out to illuminate this fusion: a cockeyed sentimentality both mawkish and unavoidably human and Bott’s vocal and facial expressions take us a long way. Her energy is joyful and buoyant like a cocker spaniel puppy, with dance material that is choreographically uncluttered and rhythmically foursquare. Yet I found myself wanting those clichés about relationships to go somewhere really illuminating—but maybe that’s what illusion is about—constant expectation doomed to fall just short of transcendence.

Jane McKernan’s I Was Here takes us to a different place altogether, not quite so amusing, probing a woman’s lapses of consciousness, trying to make visible that moment where awareness slips insensibly into void, a place of simultaneous degradation and release. Under a blue light, she dances, drained of colour, but held fast by a suffocating disco beat. Another figure lies mostly unnoticed, with her back to us, fallen and very still; on the other side of the stage a video shows a perpetually falling man, about to slip out of the screen but never quite disappearing. At times McKernan shifts her weight, totters, slides, falls. On the ground in skirt, stilettos and ankle socks, she is both a hopeless drunk and an unselfconscious child, a helpless scrap of humanity trying feebly to regain her feet, but so unaware of her own struggle she maintains an unexpected kind of dignity.

Nalina Wait’s improvised KYU circumscribes another kind of territory, with a sparkling clarity and complexity that makes the work look simple. She defines her dimensions and trajectories across a progressively illuminated diagonal, a well-used and effective design, an increasing corridor of light lengthening as if she’s pushing its far boundary with her body. After stretching to the farthest point, the energy draws her back like a retreating wave, leaving the wash of light. Her limbs are articulate and neat, the lines of her body sharp and clear, sometimes expressing mere quivers of sensibility, but there is a sense of progression and development which surpasses the simplicity of the score. The rhythms of her movement are complex, unexpected and pleasingly uneven.

Naida Chinner devised and performed Once Bitten (directed by Ingrid Voorendt), a work with a similar theme to Bott’s—a battle between romanticism and cynicism—but the place she takes us is a bit less glitzy, much less glamorous and definitely more squishy. It probably had to go last on the program because of the squashed tomatoes on stage at the end—way too difficult to clean up in a hurry. The movement is chunky and full-bodied. Being succulent and organic rather than textbook material, the choreography serves the dance well. Tomatoes, ripe and juicy but with a soft and easily broken skin, are used as a symbol of all the horrible things that love can do. Does anyone survive intact being stepped over, fallen on repeatedly, chewed up and swallowed, squashed, thrown, picked up and dropped? Chinner’s world becomes progressively littered with broken, leaky flesh to the unforgettable strains of Roy Orbison’s Love Hurts.

Mobile States 2: The Morning After, the Night Before, performer Shannon Bott, choreographers Shannon Bott & Sue Peacock (WA); I Was Here, choreographer and performer Jane McKernan (NSW); KYU, improvisation Nalina Wait (NSW); Once Bitten, choreographer and performer Naida Chinner, director Ingrid Voorendt (SA); producers, PICA & Performance Space; Performance Space, Sydney, Nov 20, 2002

RealTime issue #53 Feb-March 2003 pg. 41

© Eleanor Brickhill; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 February 2003