Riverside Theatres Parramatta, Sydney
April 10, 2014
By Lynne Lancaster of Dance Informa.
The latest in this year’s Form Dance series Safety in Numbers, choreographed/directed by Samantha Chester has a terrific cast and great technical production values. It was created during the inaugural dance theatre development program Cultivate/Culminate facilitated by Force Majeure.
The idea behind the work is that it is set in the aftermath of an earthquake, which hits at Simon’s birthday party. Is this the end for them? Inspired by true stories of disaster survivors, it explores the idea of things not being made to last, letting go and holding on, particularly in this case people and relationships. As it says in the programme notes ‘we also looked at our own inner shaking and acknowledge that at some stage in all our lives we are standing in the rubble (metaphorically) whether through grief, loss, relationships or simply trying to deal with this enormous life’.
The work begins with the use of overlapping speech patterns at Simon’s party, the cast in party hats. Then the quake hits and the world changes.
At first, the plastic chairs stutter and crawl forward, the survivors eventually emerging dazed end up being caught in a storm. Repetitive movements are used to define characterisation. Stillness, frozen in shock and grief, and being unable to cope, is contrasted with frantic movements of others such as paramedics and rescuers. Also included are dazed people obsessively tidying and straightening up the mess. There are some wonderful pas de deux where the cast are addling/fainting in shock and caught and held in the most unusual and difficult lifts .There is a frantic ‘Go! Go!‘ sequence as if the performers were trying to evacuate the area or paramedics/rescuers arriving? At one point there is a section with shifting partners where they appear to be shot and collapse into each other’s arms. Everyday movements are included and there is a sense of stylised realism. Small obsessive actions are repeated. There is a mad ‘Henny Penny the sky is falling!‘ section and rain leaving cast members wet and shining. One cast member puts on all the yellow rain ponchos and then removes them after being buffeted by the wind.
The set is a small clear space, with plastic chairs and surrounded by silver fans. Verity Lambert’s lighting is superb with wonderful dramatic side lighting for example. At times it is gloomy but this is contrasted with strong diagonal lighting – at other times it is eerie but lyrical.
A striking, most unusual and riveting performance that really makes one question ‘What would you do?’ in that situation. Would you be able to cope?
Photo (top): Safety in Numbers. Photo by Heidrun Lohr.