One Extra, Territory

Keith Gallasch

Lisa Ffrench, Territory

Lisa Ffrench, Territory

Lisa Ffrench, Territory

As artforms hybridise and electronic media offer ghostly new ways of being and speaking in performance, you’re not always sure what preconceptions to pack before setting out in your nonetheless open-minded best for another night at the…the theatre…or whatever. Even knowing One Extra’s innovative if interrupted but unique history in dance theatre in this country, expectations now seem to be that you’re about to see another dance work, something reinforced by the first few showings under Janet Robertson’s One Extra directorship. But in Territory, Robertson’s own first work for the company, we’re definitely in performance territory. In Territory dance is just one ingredient, as greedy as it makes you for more, and I did like Sue Healey’s three propelled women, arms spinning, driven but finally in control. The dance is repeated towards the end of the performance, a singular pleasure, the rare luxury of return and contemplation, but suggestive surely of its possibilities elsewhere in the work, possibilities for a deeper weaving-in and integration with other interesting movement patterns. As performance Territory typically juxtaposes dance, spoken text, sculptural design, lighting, music and projection. There are 3 women, an Indigenous consultant (Marilyn Miller—serious subjects dealt with chatty aplomb in direct address to the audience), Lily (a recent immigrant who sings and dances and cooks for us with a passion to belong—Angeline Lai) and a 19th century woman on the land (Lisa Ffrench, isolated, stiff-upper-lipped searcher for meaning, early on perched in a little room high above foreign soil). Their lives unfold in images sometimes in parallel, a mix of the opaque and the literal, most obviously shared in the response to a choreography of being fenced in (moveable fences as much natural as human constructs, part of Eammon D’Arcy and Damien Cooper’s richly ochred, moody, shifting spaces and Jad McAdam’s aural realms) and in response to the weather; first its oppressiveness, then the release of its coming. There’s much else, but Territory inclines a bit too much to opacity and too little to development, too little to what imagined contact between these women across history might actually be like—instead of the abstraction of mere parallels and difference which dominates. Five weeks (so the program note tells us) is too brief a time to realise a work like this, the result is fragmentary and too familiarly of the conventional juxtaposings of an era of performance fast slipping by. That’s not to deny the promise of Territory, but to hope for more development, a greater interplay of elements and…some magical dramaturgy.

One Extra Dance, Territory, director Janet Robertson, choreographic consultant Sue Healey, set design Eammon D’Arcy, costumes Julia Christie, sound design Jad McAdam, performers Lisa Ffrench, Angeline Lai, Marilyn Miller, The Seymour Centre, Sydney, October 8 – 25

RealTime issue #28 Dec-Jan 1998 pg. 37

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

1 December 1998