January is a lazy languid time in Sydney, so it’s slightly unfair that the art lover’s idylls should be rudely interrupted – but in the best possible way – by the massive feast of cultural events that is the Sydney Festival.
Like a refreshing summer shower, some of the festival’s most appetising events are fleeting, lasting for only one or two nights; others, like a lingering heatwave, bask the greater Sydney region in their glow for weeks.
This year’s 179 events spread from the CBD to the Blue Mountains, 85 of them are free and there are almost 500 performances in total. Eight of them have exclamation marks in their title (one even has two!!) so expect some very exciting shows!
As always with the Sydney Festival, it’s best to get in early: by the time you hear about them they have may have vanished or sold out.
Part of the Score season of sound and movement at Carriageworks as presented by Performance Space, Force Majeure in CULMINATE saw, under the excellent direction of Kate Champion, four strong, powerful works, still regarded as ‘in development’ presented. We were also reminded that this CULMINATE season, in effect, links in with, and alternates with, the ‘Cultivate’ season by the same company. The studio space was mostly just left bare with the mirrors covered.
The opening work, Untitled #14 by Jason Pitt used repeated phrases of movement at various points. Balance and control were most important of the body and of other outside elements like chairs and other props used by the cast. Masks were also worn at certain points. Continue reading Force Majeure’s CULMINATE→
Part of the ‘Score’ Festival of Sound and Movement presented by Performance Space at Carriageworks, this is a fresh, challenging work by Chunky Move from Melbourne, directed by and choreographed by Anthony Hamilton. Their current Sydney season is part of a current national tour.
Hamilton uses spoken word, repetition of sounds, repeated phrases of movement and improvised movement sequences to follow human evolution from primates to robots and space exploration and back again. It celebrates our primal need to interact with one another. Director and choreographer Antony Hamilton came up with his new show after asking himself the questions:- what if I created a work from ideas he had discarded in the past? What would it mean to take these ideas that had been left, and instead keep everything?! Continue reading Chunky Move’s Keep Everything→
The renowned British artist Tacita Dean is famous for her drawings and film. Dean has the ability to capture in her works qualities that make them not only extraordinarily beautiful but her works have an intimacy that can be almost painful to experience.
The 19th Biennale of Sydney and Carriageworks commissioned Dean to create EVENT FOR A STAGE. Dean describes how when she was offered a theatre as a performance space she had limited knowledge of theatre and its rituals and disciplines but she immediately thought of the need to find an actor to act on stage. Leaving behind the security of the visual arts, Dean embarked on a journey into the performing arts armed, she modestly claims, only with ignorance and presumptions.
Event for a Stage is presented in the round. Situated inside a large white circle drawn on the ground there is one actor, Stephen Dillane, and two cameras. The cameras are there to film and be part of the performance. They form a tangible connection between Dillane, Dean and the audience and capture the interplay that occurs between artist, actor and audience. They make the audience aware of the artifice of performance, especially as the actor directly refers to the filming process.
The border of the actor’s circle functions as a liminal zone which Dillane crosses when he wishes to share confidences with the audience. Dillane’s performance is astonishing. He reads exquisitely from texts, delivers thundering critiques directed at Dean the ‘artist’. He discusses the rituals and devices of the theatre and tells us painfully moving accounts of his family and their relationship with Australia. These anecdotes, delivered outside the actor’s circle are particularly fascinating as Dillane seems to be sharing intimacies with the audience, or is he being consummate artist seducing us with artifice?
Throughout the performance Dean sits in the front row, unobtrusively in a corner, looking slightly uncomfortable. Once she makes a comment and a number of times she holds out a piece of paper with comments or directions for Dillane on it. Dillane contemptuously snatches these pieces of paper from Dean, pouring out scorn and vitriol as he reads outs Dean’s comments and prompts. He then scrunches these sheets of paper up and throws them away. Interestingly, they always land within the artist’s circle.
The use of cameras, as well as enabling the performance to be recorded, also forms a connection between the known terrain of visual arts for Dean and the world of the performing arts that Dillane reveals to her. EVENT FOR A STAGE becomes even more engrossing as we become aware that in this performance we are witnessing art reflecting on itself. Dean’s production and Dillane’s performance takes this idea to a whole new level. We are not simply witnessing a rumination on art, rather we are witnessing the visual and the performing arts colliding, shattering and reforming. This extraordinary interaction is why EVENT FOR A STAGE should not be missed.
EVENT FOR A STAGE had its world premiere at Carriageworks between the first and fourth of May. Dean has made recordings and films of the four performances and will be turning them into radio and film versions of the event.
With all the doom and gloom emanating from Geelong lately with the closures of Ford and Alcoa, it’s great to see one of that city’s success stories, Back to Back Theatre, showcase their award winning show GANESH VERSUS THE THIRD REICH at Carriageworks, Sydney.
Back to Back Theatre was founded in Geelong in 1987 to create theatre with people who are perceived to have a disability. It has gone on to become one of Australia’s leading creative voices, focusing on moral, philosophical and political questions about the value of individual lives.
THE SHADOW KING is the apt title of an adaptation of King Lear by Tom E. Lewis and Michael Kantor.
Set in Northern Australia, THE SHADOW KING is the fulmination of a dream the two theatre practitioners have held dear – “to tell one of the foundation stories of contemporary Western civilisation but use it to question and probe contemporary indigenous experience.”
More than a mere palimpsest, THE SHADOW KING retains whole phrases from Shakespeare, sometimes translated into traditional tongues, cantilevered with the use of colloquial English.
An absorbing blend of dance, physical theatre and the warehouse/industrial environment Forklift is brought to us by KAGE from Melbourne as part of the 2014 Sydney Festival.
Directed by Kate Denborough, there are three female performers in the show (four if you count the forklift itself. And the forklift does get bows at the curtain calls!). The cast are Amy Macpherson, Nicci Wilks and Henna Kaikula all of whom have had circus and dance training and special contortionist training as well.
The whole huge area of Bay 17 of Carriageworks is used, opened right up to the back walls. The show begins with one of the cast starting a late night shift in a warehouse. We see her arriving for work, playing cards with a friend, making coffee, grabbing a snack from the machine … Meanwhile, eerie unusual events begin to happen.The other two performers emerge in skin coloured bra and pants.
Walking to the entrance of Candice Breitz’s current exhibition Working Class Hero (a portrait of John Lennon) is an overpowering experience. The brazen, or the overtly intrepid, may think nothing of wandering straight amongst the 25 channel video installation of Lennon fans singing his 1970 release Plastic Ono Band in a cappella. This viewer however approached the scene with something approaching trepidation, almost feeling as though stepping any further than the doorway would be in the same realm as barging unannounced into a performance of a community choir.
As an introduction to the exhibition,- Breitz placed an advertisement in a paper in Newcastle, England calling forth a legion of John Lennon fans willing to be recorded singing Plastic Ono Band in full. After a rigorous selection process 25 were chosen and Working class hero is the culmination of the project. Exhibited in a variety of contexts, this installation is perhaps one of the most egalitarian with each video evenly spaced around the room, not affording privilege to any individual’s rendition of the album.
Die hard fans these diverse, expressive faces may be; crazed fans they are not. Breitz’s work is a respectful and sensitive exploration of fandom and the myriad of ways one can be a fan. In the words of the artist, each “performer” is idiosyncratically responding to the same set of parameters, and the storytelling of the piece takes place in the choices made by each individual. Some charmingly, endearingly mumble the lyrics under their breath while others are more performative and boisterous. Bashful faces turn to earnest storytellers as the track list rolls on and alongside the Lennon-esque gold-rimmed glasses and fan t-shirts we gain an understanding of the subjects as we witness the water, coffee or beer the subjects sip for stamina throughout their recording.
Just as the performers grow more comfortable as each song rolls on, so too does the audience. After tentatively hanging on the edge of the ‘stage’, for one tune, maybe two, the viewer’s response begins to be ignited as much by the subjects as by the songs. A walk around the room gives the sense of artwork and audience gravitating towards a common ground, both approaching a pinnacle of inner reflectivity.
In a curious paradox, the subjects themselves are completely disconnected from the audience. Aside from a flicker of awareness of being documented they are completely absorbed by the emotion of Lennon’s recording – the songs being fed to them via earpiece. Conversely, the audience cannot hear the music and is absolutely lost in the role of voyeuristic observer. These homage-like performances have strength of emotion so deep-seated that what in another setting could have been labelled karaoke now transcends the sing-a-long and ignites a sense of the rawness of human emotion.
Yes, this work is a portrait of Lennon – part of him being superimposed in the faces of the 25 people involved – but it is much more than that. It is also a portrait of the viewer, the performer, the music appreciator. It is a portrait of England and its inhabitants. It is about a collective experience; a shared sense of humanity and the act of making the every man the every day hero.
You may intend to stay for a few songs and be on your way, but more than likely you will find yourself hooked in for the full 39 minute loop and then some. Leaving early would seem akin to taking the back door halfway through a concert, out staying the entire loop equating to a personal encore.
Working Class Hero (a portrait of John Lennon) is on show at Anna Schwarz Gallery, 245 Wilson Street, Darlington (Carriageworks), until 28 September, 2013.
“Stand by, Roll sound, Roll camera – ACTION!” and another group of delighted audience become part of the shooting of another TV Crime Show.
Amidst gales of laughter, a suspect protests his innocence with a most unlikely explanation, a policewoman throws the book at him (a small Yellow Pages at the table really, three times! Then collapses into giggles). Meanwhile in another inconspicuous corner four other audience members are in a car on a stake out surrounded by another ten or so people peering in. Elsewhere on this expansive ‘lot’ (it felt about half a football field), two young students enthusiastically kicked in a dunny door and assaulted the dummy they found inside, someone hesitantly pulled back a sheet covering a ‘body on a slab’ to find with relief it was only a mannequin, and yours truly was empanelled as part of an eight person jury that included a seven year old who promptly put his age up very convincingly to eighteen. Indeed he became our foreman.
It all sounds like and was a lot of fun.
My only reservations were that after a brief introduction to the concept and an invitation when a curtain was drawn to “Come on in and join the production!”, the stage manager, or “Floor Manager” to use the correct term, was not evident. It felt more like a “Living Art” exhibition and one was left to wander around aimlessly peering at this and that. It tended to lack overall cohesion. Indeed our group joined a preceding group and in the short time it took to get to the court room, I hadn’t time to see all the evidence!
The staging was grand scale – but which way to go? The performances were adequate, as was the script. But I was disappointed that the heckling jury member (Guilty – “NOT GUILTY!”), was not dealt with in the manner I would have expected from such an experienced performer as Chris Haywood who played the judge. (The first time I ever saw Chris perform he was a punk rocker you wouldn’t mess with, literally getting his teeth into a rat, a rubber one, in a 1970’s pubshow “Smiles and Piles”). On this occasion he simply went back to the script. He did acknowledge the outburst, directing “amateur performance” at me. Still, it’s a great concept.
BINGO UNIT is playing till Saturday evening July 13 at Carriageworks, 245 Wilson Street, Eveleigh. Check the Carriageworks official website- www.carriageworks.com.au for session times.
CESENA, ROSAS companion piece to EN ATTENDANT, is just as mesmerising.
It starts with a snap to blackout and in the gloom a full throated call to the dawn by a nude male. Throughout the show there is a sense of ancient pagan ritual and worship, a hymn to the sun and creation.
In EN ATENDANT the dominant visual theme was a simple straight line of earth at the front of the stage (that was worn down by the dancers moving across it), in CESENA it is a huge circle that the dancers obliterate with their movements.
In CESENA there is a feeling that the dancers were like free ,bobbing molecules .De Keersmaeker worked closely with Bjorn Schmelzer and his graindelavoix ensemble. The singers dance and the dancers sing .We become absorbed in the very tricky bubbling, rippling, tumbling rhythms of the glorious acapella voices . For one section the eerie ticking of a metronome is used. There is also a rhythm of call and response. In one section the cast sing while lying down or sitting.
Stillness contrasted with explosive movement is used too. Some sections of the work have huge blocks of movement by the entire cast, at others there are small short solos. In some parts there were set line of movement and synchronised walking was again featured. Choreographically for me the work has snippets that were reminiscent of Pina Bausch and Siobhan Davies .
There was a lot more floor work, rolls, slips, slides. There are amazing lifts and rolls, lunges and jumps and the use of fall and recovery and off-balance.
For the finale there is a magnificent coup de theatre where the back doors are opened -as if returning us to the ‘real’ world? offering vistas of possibilities? – and the cast vanishes upstage left.
A breathless, stunned pause and then the audience erupted with fiercely enthusiastic applause.
ROSAS ‘CESENA’ played at Carriageworks on the 14th and 15th September, 2012.
Tags: Sydney Stage Reviews- ROSAS Dance Company, CESENA, Carriageworks, Olalla Aleman, Haider, Al Timimi, Bostjan Antoncic, Aron Blom, Carlos Garbin, Marie Goudot, Lieven Gouwy, David Hernandez, Matej Kejzar, Mikael Marklund, Tomas Maxe, Julien Monty,Chrysa Parkinson ,Marius Peterson, Michael Pomero, Albert Riera, Gabriel Schenker, Yves Van Handenhove,Sandy Williams, Sydney Arts Guide, Lynne Lancaster
Challenging and provocative, this is a luminous, shimmering, extraordinary combination of fourteenth century music and contemporary dance .
This is the first time the Biennale has presented a dance company as part of its program and what a thrill it is. Rosas under the direction of de Keersmaeker is based in Belgium and spoken of with great reverence internationally. Sydneysiders had a rare brief chance to see this marvellous company in the Australian premieres of these two works .
En Atendant , the first work , has a cast of eight dancers with three instrumentalists and a singer.The work is performed to a song by Filippo de Caserta entitled En Atendant that becomes almost a leitmotif. The work was originally performed in 2010 at the Avignon festival. It is now a companion piece to Cesena , the second work performed here . Originally En Atendant was performed at twilight while dusk fell and Cesena at dawn.
For En Atendant, the set is basically the bare grey walls of the huge Carriageworks space , with large looming peeling silver painted columns and a small bench for the musicians. There is also a large hovering overhead light above us.the lighting – from full houselights up at the start , so the audience can see and be seen , to almost total darkness at the end – has rather a gentle , joyous feel except for the rather gloomy obscureness at the end when it is much darker. (It is almost Carravaggio like as echoed partly in some of the tableaux/poses the dancers form ).The finale , an amazing nude male solo in semi darkness is both luminous and opaque -questioning love ,life and creation ?
The first fifteen minutes or so of En Atendant are given over to an amazing flute solo by Michael Schmid where we see his incredible mastery of the instrument and breath control. From a pianissimo humm , the uneasy , insistent timbre eventually changes to sounding like an aeroplane – or is it we are falling through time ?Everything changes however and the other musicians and dancers eventually appear.
There is no narrative as such, rather a reaction or reinterpretation of the De Caserta poem ( included with a translation in the programme). It is abstract pure dance in counterpoint to the heavenly ,soaring, complicated rhythms of the music. Cour et Coeur are magnificent.
Much attention must be paid to the counts and rhythms of the dance and music and their synchronisation and /or opposition – in some ways there is a Balanchine or Cunningham influence I thought. de Keersmaeker’s choreography uses the basic walk as a base for development –runs, slides and slips , almost a soft shoe shuffle. In some sections the dancers are a seething , writhing wave like mass of movement , suddenly frozen in a machine like tableaux , or as if echoing a pose from Gericault’s ‘The raft of the Medusa’ .
There are some wonderful solos and some terrific male duets . The arms seem to be held mostly straight and stiff . Much use is made of soft jumps .Repeated tiny fragments of movement are mirrored /echoed as if in discussion .There is also a particular use of the softly bent knee , not quite demi-plie, and a turned out thigh releve that is almost martial arts like.
An astonishing, captivating work EN ATENDANT, running 1 hour and 40 minutes, played Carriageworks on 11th nad 12th September, 2012.