It Shouldn’t Make Sense (but it does)

29/08/2009 at 5:52 pm Leave a comment

Run: A Performance Engine

De Quincey Company – Bay 20, Carriageworks, August 2009

There are strange echoes of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis in this work of physical theatre, reminding us of the mechanisation of humanity and our complex, precarious relationship with technology. Visually it is quite extraordinary with skilful use of shadow, silhouette and live video projection, offering big-screen details on the movements and a sense of enormity as the somewhat puny looking humans perform their balancing acts.  The effect is to imply we’re privy to a microcosmos, peering into a microscope at a repeating fractal universe where tiny humans explore their existence ad finitum.

The four dancers clamber about on the set, made up of bits of industrial detritus suspended from the ceiling, found objects apparently dating back to the Carriageworks’ days as a locomotive construction site. The bits of scaffold are weighty, rustic and almost primal, jutting out of the shadows, appearing as if from nowhere in your peripheral vision to form giant endless ladders that shift and swing improbably. One of the objects appears to be a gigantic spanner – at least six metres long – as the opening image it’s locked around a dancer’s head and slowly turns her around.  It then becomes a pendulum, setting the rhythm for the piece as the truly bizarre live soundtrack commences.

It was hard to tell what the musicians were doing, with their modified trumpets, jiggling plastic cups and  breathy saxophone amongst an array of electronic devices at the front of the stage. You might catch something of their work peripherally as you watch – in fact the whole show seems to happen in the corner of your eye as they use the entire space of Bay 20, no corner left uncharted by these curious wandering figures.  You’re watching one negotiate a climb when you suddenly notice a piece of the set has changed position in the foreground, or a body is upside down, or a video screen has started up.

This detaching effect allows all manner of thoughts to enter the imagination and for some reason I kept coming back to Quantum Mechanics and string theory – as if the bodies in space were vibrating atoms making attempts to break free or come to terms with the limits of their existence.  I don’t know why this recurring theme came to me but it seems an apt metaphor to represent the fluidity of the human machine a in tenuous partnership with the industrial world.

It’s weird.  Abstract, unhuman somehow disassociated from us but although we may not relate on a concrete level, it reaches out in ways words cannot.  This theatrical primality is at the core of the style of performance they call ‘post-dramatic’ – where imagery and metaphor take precedence over narrative forms.

I spoke to another audience member who found the experience of this show alienating.  Too much emphasis on expressionism, nothing to connect her to the content.  Others will feel the opposite, and perhaps the Quantum Space analogy is still appropriate to carry – where particles are not matter but possibility.  If traditional theatre’s function is to tell a story then this form of expression is to tell possibilities – letting imagery and abstraction lead us where it may.  But possibility is nothing if you are not open to it.

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Entry filed under: Dance/ Physical Theatre, Inside Theatre REVIEWS. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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VICTOR SANCZ vassanc [AT] gmail.com

since 2009

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