Happy As Larry (Shaun Parker & Company)

happyaslarryVenue: Everest Theatre, Seymour Centre (Sydney NSW), Sep 10 – 14, 2013
Director & Choreographer: Shaun Parker
Music: Nick Wales, Bree van Reyk
Dancers: Timothy Ohl, Josh Mu, Marnie Palomares, Jana Castillo, Joshua Thomson

Theatre review
Dance culture frequently situates itself in tradition and times past, but Shaun Parker & Company’s is a culture that grounds itself firmly in the here and now. Everything about their look, sound and feel stands for a contemporary aesthetic that is not usually seen in the theatre but in other media, especially on film and television. It is a more accurate representation of modern day Australia than those of lofty and more prominent groups, and the company should also be commended for its efforts at showcasing ethnic and gender diversity.

The dancers have a physical carriage that sets them apart from other professional dancers who tend to be from balletic backgrounds. There is a b-boy/breakdance sensibility that permeates this crew, even though their work is much more varied than that single genre reference might suggest. In fact, it seems to be an ambition of the work to encompass as many dance forms as possible, which provides the show with variety and freshness, and extremely high entertainment value.

Dancer Josh Mu stands out in a memorable sequence that fuses the opposing styles of breakdance with lyrical. Mu is able to be equally powerful in these divergent forms, and the fluidity in his blending of both is completely arresting. Other dancers are less technically brilliant in their abilities, but all are athletic and authentic in their approach. It is also noteworthy that this is a group that places some emphasis on acting and facial expressions, which is always a crowd-pleasing feature.

The invention of a big black rotating box (picture a shipping container) in the middle of the stage is genius. By simply introducing countless options for entrances and exits, the choreography quickly becomes layered and complex. The mobility of the box also removes predictability by altering the stage and performance space, creating a show that continually surprises. It is a matter of contention when considering where “direction” starts and “choreography” ends, but Shaun Parker is undoubtedly strong at both. His work seeks to use dance as a communicative medium, and his point of view comes across with clarity and conviction.