Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Review: Melbourne Spawned a Monster

Dancehouse as a part of Dance Massive
Choreographed and Directed by Jo Lloyd
Performed by Luke George
Music by Duane Morrison
Set by Rob McCredie

It’s an alarming space you enter at Danceworks for Melbourne Spawned a Monster. Hazard tape slung about, a huge plywood monolith in front of you. Turns out it’s the back of the steeply raked seating bank – seats pushed right up against the stage. The lighting is dim. Dimmer than dim, the kind of dim that pixelates your vision, as your brain fruitlessly attempts to compensate for the lack of visual information it has to process and makes stuff up instead.

And then it is dark as dark can be, the kind of dark in which you can trick yourself into not being sure if your eyes are open or not.

Out of nowhere: the peculiarly identifiable sound of tennis balls being bounced off a wall and falling into the audience. What was going on is amazingly clear, considering that it was one of the most unlikely things to have happened. Scattered laughter rose up from the audience. It really was what was happening. It was one of the most joyously playful ways to break the fourth wall on one hand and alienate the audience on the other.

I regrettably missed the original incarnation of Melbourne Spawned a Monster which premiered at Danceworks in September 2008. (Read Chris Boyd’s lucid review here, after you’ve finished with my ramblings you will crave lucidity. Trust me, you will.)

And having only seen Luke George’s performance of the work (and this in no way denigrates his interpretation, for it was glorious. Yes, glorious) I find myself yearning to be able to compare it with that of the piece’s Choreographer and Director, Jo Lloyd, who for matters I know not of, was not performing this time around.

I suppose this desire of mine to have seen her can be broken down thus: a) I’m having a hard time imagining anyone other than Luke George performing Melbourne Spawned a Monster. (This in itself may be either because he was very, very good and inhabited the work totally, or because my imagination is woefully limited). b) I think a woman’s performance may have absolutely re-contextualised the work. Although, perhaps her performance wouldn’t have re-contextualised the work,

Perhaps George’s performance was sort of genderless (which now that I mention it I think it may have been). Not genderless so much as not really masculine. (I mean masculine in the broadest possible manner.) And perhaps Lloyd’s performance was similarly androgynous.

Hmm. I think I need to back up the truck here. In my youth I craved a certain kind of male role model, one who was comfortable with his masculinity, one who could be poetic and graceful and humble and self-deprecating and not be competitive or protean, not needing to always prove his masculinity, one in whom the presence of softness and sensitivity needn’t mean femininity – it just didn’t really mean anything. I didn’t consciously crave this. Its wasn’t as if I was knocking about as an eight year old testing the men in my life on their verse, line, and emotional maturity, I think I became aware of the limitations implicit in the notion of “The Australian Male” early. This was the eighties. One had two choices a) Warwick Capper b) Bernard King.

I think what I’m trying to say here is that Luke George displayed the kind of humanity that is all encompassing. His unchallenging, passive, yet commanding gaze was disarming and reassuring. It was another way in which the performance toyed with the audience and both alienated you and brought you closer to itself.

This was a proscenium show. From the front of which dangled strings of LED lights, illuminating both the performer and the audience and drawing our attention to the divide and when it was being crossed. He is us. He’s with us. The LED light reflected on a simple, kitsch, ingenious backdrop of the Melbourne skyline, defined only by its windows, cut out of foil.

The choreography made little sense to me intellectually (as I’ve said before, I have no dance background, apart from tap-dancing lessons in a West Brunswick church hall with three middle-aged women. Not the most thorough preparation, I’ll admit) yet as it passed I was struck by its playfulness, its humour, its familiarity and its lack of equilibrium.

Duane Morrison’s perfectly realised music leant a pulse and a twitch to Luke George’s movements, reminding me of Harryhausen’s stop-motion skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts:

Or, perhaps more to the point:

Melbourne Spawned a Monster is a wonderfully original piece of work.


Anonymous said...

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