New work matures in Open Space

Chris Reid

Dancenet Contemporary Dance Collective, Reminders

Dancenet Contemporary Dance Collective, Reminders

Dancenet Contemporary Dance Collective, Reminders

In the Adelaide Festival Centre’s Open Space, artists are invited to test new works and new forms, and use the Space Theatre’s facilities as they wish. Following the successful 1998 season, the second Open Space involved 20 ensembles over 5 nights and promised much.

Dance predominated: Ingrid Voorendt’s Pinchu Macha and Me and My Shadow were strong, dancer Naida Chinner standing out. The Beltane company’s Spell of Harmony and Fire of Becoming were tight and energetic. Katrina Lazaroff’s Seeds of Groove Roots was a sparkling parody of the disco scene, with a tight 3-piece funk band backing 2 dancers, vocalist Liam Gerner showing much potential. Movement merged convincingly into theatre in The Waiting Room by dance company Pani. They portrayed the dislocation of the individual’s private space, with a man “climbing” over a woman who tries to maintain composure by ignoring his intrusion.

Two themes recurred through the season: troubled relationships and youth sub-culture. BudgieLung’s Je regret, a performance of music, movement and speech, depicted couples’ attraction and ensuing unhappy relationships. Different spoken languages were used to universalise the theme. The audience responded positively, though the work did not always maintain dramatic tension. In Fish Kiss’ satirical theatre work We’re all gonna get cancer anyway! the performers ponder the dangers of unprotected sex, intravenous drugs, mental illness and health generally in a disposable society—a strong text but staged in a simple soliloquy form that needs development.

Two theatre works stood out: Chimaera Productions’ Achenputtel was a charming adaptation of the Cinderella story, birds taking the role of the Fairy Godmother. Yashchin Ensemble’s Loco was a powerfully rendered take on the dysfunctionality of the incestuous family, where sexually-oriented neurosis and fear push the individual over the edge.

Michelle Luke, Caroline Farmer and Tommy Darwin’s The Mechanics of Subtle Persuasion, which appeared in the Moving Image Festival in August, has been revised and now includes music by Steve Matters. Two 30-somethings meet and become lovers, their taped voices revealing their private thoughts. The text remains strong, but the revisions have not improved its delivery. Previously, the actors entered at the commencement with video cameras strapped in front of their faces to relay continuous close-ups to a cinema screen. In this rendition, the actors enter part-way through, their faces on screen now dissociated from the voice-overs, reducing the immediacy of the text. The actors’ skates and skateboard, which symbolised slipperiness and uncertainty in the first version, are now gone and their movement is less focused. Design coherence is especially important when multiple media are used.

The highlight of the season, Reminders, was based around the recitation of a poem of that name by Geoff Goodfellow. Staged by Dancenet Contemporary Dance Collective, it begins with a video of the poet in his kitchen making breakfast. A male dancer with a large white sheet enters and in the foreground performs a slow, intense sequence before retiring to an armchair centre stage. Two dancers inside funnel-shaped tubes of white cloth then begin to move, suggesting a mind/body in sexual turmoil. A female dancer performs on stage while the video shows her emerging from the shower. The work culminates in the screening of Goodfellow reading his poem about a now absent lover. This is excellent theatre, with strong choreography by dancer Caroline Lawson, blending the various media effectively.

The major video work of the season was Unit E’s The Republik Opera, Andrew Petrusevics’ computer-based satirical video of the history of Australia since Federation. Petrusevics’ project continues to grow and develop. This time it was accompanied by actors hitting ping-pong balls into the audience with golf clubs, an element that seemed unrelated. The work would be stronger staged as short video in a booth of the kind increasingly appearing in art galleries.

Each evening ended with a musical performance, often augmented by projected imagery. Fiona Beverage’s Liz Dooley is a singer with potential; move over Sinead! A band called January’s lyrics are absorbing, even quoting Shakespeare.

This year’s Open Space was characterised by fewer ensembles attempting to blend disciplines but where they did, some good work resulted. Open Space provides an unparalleled opportunity for experimentation and the development of new forms. Some performers in the 1998 season, like Da Whyze Guize, have gone on to better things, and some of this season’s should too.

Open Space, The Space, Festival Centre, Adelaide, Dec 5-9, 2000.

RealTime issue #41 Feb-March 2001 pg. 22

© Chris Reid; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 February 2001