Love Undone

Keith Gallasch on Lucy Guerin’s Love Me at Malthouse

Kirstie McCracken, Byron Perry, Love Me

Kirstie McCracken, Byron Perry, Love Me

Kirstie McCracken, Byron Perry, Love Me

With On, Lucy Guerin has produced another major work in telling counterpoint to her other great achievement, Melt, also on the same program (collectively titled Love Me) as part of Malthouse’s Spring Season. Where Melt celebrates a fusion of souls in a seamless flow of entwining bodies and digital images, the temperature ever rising, but gloriously stress free and transcendant, On, is a vivid portrayal of a relationship coming apart in a series of emotional cold snaps.

Where Melt grows ever more vividly coloured and open, On is tightly framed in 2 discrete spaces surrounded by darkness. A man and a woman occupy these spaces together and apart, in a state of nerve buzzing tension. They reach out trembling fingers to touch, but can’t make it; they try to kiss but can’t go the small distance. He feels her arm, her face, as if to confirm that she’s there. She dances, he won’t. He can turn her on, but he’s not really there. She can’t move him, she’s frustrated, bored, he’s detached. They’re out of kilter. An argument—we can’t hear the words—bodies thrusting but rooted to the spot. On is about a relationship on the verge of off, in which intimacy is fading and every permutation of the couple’s touching is faltering. She freezes, he cradles her to the warble of a sweet accordion, perhaps the last image of affection, perhaps merely sentimentality, in a soundscape otherwise full of the rush and scraping of the world.

None of this is performed as literal narrative, rather as semi-abstracted but suggestive vignettes, potent images of the knots of love and their dissolution, or cutting. One scene is of the couple tangling in a dance of hands in a small square of light. They live out solo moments, he with a constant turning, self-contained, fluent against the melancholy fall of rain and rasping metal. She gets caught up in projected grids that roll down her body and across her face, as if under other forms of control than just his.

There are moments when you think they’re reconnecting, the tips of tongues actually touch, but he pulls away. Arms and hands tangle again. There’s a similar dance between feet, her foot hooking onto his. Finally, she rocks to and fro before him, he goes to leave, she falls, he catches her, her head lolls, she crumples, he puts her to rest. It’s is if there’s been a death. Adjusting her curled body, he moves a foot to her head, connecting her no longer to him, but to herself, foetally, closed, left.

On is absorbing and disturbing, its miniatures of touch and separation claustrophobically framed in small pockets of light and in the taut choreography enacted by dancers Kirstie McCracken and Byron Perry, their energies compressed and explosive. The sound design (an awkwardly placed reading of a German poem, in German, aside) evocatively parallels the tensions in the relationship but also suggests a bigger world beyond, just as dangerous in its own way.

It was a thrill to see Melt (dancers Kirstie McCracken, Stephanie Lake) on the same program, seeming more sublime then ever and joyously effusive, an immaculate multimedia creation and perfect for a double bill with its dark side, On. Guerin’s other ‘couple’ piece, Reservoir of Giving, began the evening, and its second episode appeared immediately after interval, an unfortunate separation given that the scenes need to be immediately juxtaposed for maximum effect of a pretty minimal idea. While the naivety and pathos of its young protaganists in and out of love is vaguely funny, especially when framed by David Rosetzky’s video cool, there’s not enough substance to take the work beyond a video-clippish conceit. The bringing together of Melt and On, however, yielded a memorable dance experience.

Malthouse: Lucy Guerin Inc, Love Me, choreography Lucy Guerin, performers Kirstie McCracken, Byron Perry, Stephanie Lake, Kyle Kremerskothen, motion graphic design Michaela French, lighting design Keith Tucker, video David Rosetzky, music/sound Franz Tetac, Paul Healy, Darrin Verhagen, Merlyn Theatre, Malthouse, Sept 6-11

RealTime issue #69 Oct-Nov 2005 pg. 15

© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 October 2005