Review: Triple Bill (Ockham’s Razor)

ockhamsrazorVenue: Seymour Centre (Chippendale NSW), Jan 21 – 26, 2014
Directors: Ruth Naylor-Smith, Deb Pope, Meline Danielewicz
Music: Derek Nisbet, Patrick Larley, Penguin Cafe Orchestra
Performers: Alex Harvey, Charlotte Mooney, Grania Pickard, Steve Ryan

Theatre review
Aerial acrobatics can be relied upon to provide exciting thrills, as it easily evokes sensations of tension and vertigo, but to create narratives and imagery that bear strong aesthetic appeal within that framework is a challenging one. Ockham’s Razor succeeds in presenting beautiful imagery and emotionally involving pieces while allowing acrobatics to remain centre stage. Their stylistic choices are always simple, but they are masters at communicating to our eyes. They know exactly what we look at at every point in time, and they feed us everything we need by controlling how our eyes move and what we focus on.

Their show incorporates the art of miming, through which they surreptitiously acquire our empathy and identification. Relationships between characters are established ambiguously, but our connection with them are certain. In Arc, we see a love triangle set against a backdrop reminiscent of a shipwreck. The performance plays with ideas of emotional turbulence, using it to create a sense of breathtaking danger at every turn. Memento Mori presents life and death as a romance, one that is always at the brink of devastation. Their movements in space allegorise our intimate relationships with love and death, with moments of tenderness, and cruelty. The final work Every Action… injects humour into their craft. It is the liveliest section of the triple bill, cleverly applying mischief and playfulness to their acrobatic skills. The team looks especially effortless in their approach here, but are still able to elicit gasps of surprise and pleasure from the crowd.

Opening night saw fairly long intervals between each work. It is understandable that set up has to be completed thoroughly with no room for error, but with each break, the mood in the auditorium slumps down from the fervour we had been left with at the end of the previous piece. It truly does feel like a waste to not pick up from the enthusiasm and keep building up on the energy. Hopefully subsequent performances will see the gaps shortened.

Music and lighting design are thoughtfully created, adding to the ethereal elegance of these works. There is always a stillness that pervades, like an acknowledgement of the things that could go horribly wrong at any time. We are captivated, by the super-human stunts unfolding before us, the sheer beauty of the choreography, and the irresistible urge to imagine all the “what if’s” that could result from playing with gravity.

Review: Chi Udaka (TaikOz / Lingalayam)

chiudakaVenue: Seymour Centre (Chippendale NSW), Jan 16 – 18, 2013
Directors: Anandavalli & Ian Cleworth
Choreographer: Anandavalli
Music: Ian Cleworth, Riley Lee, Aruna Parthiban, John Napier

Theatre review
Chi Udaka sees a collaboration between two Australian companies from disparate backgrounds. TaikOz’s performance is based on Japanese percussion and wind instruments, and Lingalayam explores traditional Indian dance and music. Both companies work with specific disciplines and cultural influences, but come together to seek out a mode of expression that combines their respective talents. Whether discovering similarities or using disparities, Chi Udaka features a showcase with flashes of symbiosis, discordance and parallels.

Directors Anandavalli and Ian Clenworth do not seem to work with an ideal outcome in mind, but focus instead on a sense of exploration and surprise. What results is a production that is unpredictable and intriguing. One unifying component is a mesmerising quality that both cultures possess within their own forms, and their show together is definitely an enthralling experience. There is a spiritual element that is undeniable in the work, and in spite of the diversity in modern religious lives, it appeals to the sacred in each person, and aims for an uplifted audience.

An unfortunate flaw in the production is lighting design. Largely due to the restrictions of the York Theatre, which does not have conventional wings to allow for floods of light to illuminate the performers bodies effectively, the production has a muted look that prevents a greater, more direct connection with the audience. Relying on lamps from fly bars and footlights work well in the more subdued sections, but they detract from the efforts on stage in the more rousing moments of the piece.

Chi Udaka is a modern Australian marriage, imagined and realised by adventurous and brave people in the arts. It is a new dawn in our continuing re-definition of the Australian identity in our artistic and social landscapes, and while things may not always be smooth and easy going, this is a show that demonstrates a desire for purity and a respect for pluralism. It is a joyful moment when we are able to cherish all our different histories, and converge with trust and peace to create a new voice, one that embraces all that is good about the land on which we live and breathe.

Review: Am I (Shaun Parker & Company)

rsz_r1222886_16043263Venue: Sydney Opera House (Sydney NSW), Jan 9 – 12, 2014
Director & Choreographer: Shaun Parker
Music: Nick Wales
Dramaturge: Veronica Neave
Dancers: Josh Mu, Sophia Ndaba, Jessie Oshodi, Marnie Palomares, Melanie Palomares, Shantala Shivalingappa, Julian Wong

Theatre review
With Am I, Shaun Parker & Company continues to redefine Australian dance and identity. This work relies heavily on traditional Indian forms of performance and Chinese martial arts, to create a new contemporary dance that is not only about Australia but also an international landscape. As societies come to terms with technological advancements and multiplicity in their cultural compositions, art begins to conflate and we seem to be arriving at a time when a universality, in creativity and practice, usurps geographical differences. Shaun Parker’s work is international not only because of its high standards, but also because of its global language.

Shantala Shivalingappa brings an Indian influence that gives the production a sense of dreamlike storytelling. She is an omnipresent narrator, with a magnetism that can only be described as enigmatic. Slight in stature and mild in temperament, it is a wonder that the audience’s attention is completely lost in Shivalingappa’s minimal performance style whenever she takes centre stage. Julian Wong’s talents as a martial artist are utilised to perfection. The way his disciplines are reinterpreted to create a new art form, is probably the greatest achievement of this work. The opening up of something that is seemingly rigid and old fashioned, in order to create a brand new redefining vocabulary in movement is an incredible feat, which the company should be extremely proud of. A particularly memorable moment sees the combination of Wong performing a “qigong” style routine along with Josh Mu’s responses using “popping” from the breakdance lexicon. The meeting of the two is breathtaking, and clearly (as words will no doubt fail), has to be seen to be believed.

Music is performed entirely live with a band and singers that have achieved a magnificent level of symbiosis with the dancers. Lighting design is creative and ground-breaking, with a “wall of light” that provides illumination in all senses of the word. The level of sensitivity at which both these elements are designed and directed is masterful. They are not often in the foreground of proceedings, but are absolutely crucial to the success of the show.

Am I is Shaun Parker’s meditation on spirituality. It inspires ideas on God, creation, and inevitably, the meaning of life. It is Parker using the performance space to ask the biggest questions, and what results is something transcendental and divine. This is a company determined to communicate, and the show speaks to audiences of all kinds. Its concepts are grand but universal; its tone sophisticated but never hoity-toity. It speaks to all, but seeks to appeal to the most sacred that is in us all.

5 Questions with Tom Royce-Hampton

tomroycehamptonWhat is your favourite swear word?
Bollocks – feels good to whisper or yell, it’s an explosion of emotion and can carry as much venom or comedy as the situation requires.

What are you wearing?
My trusty (and hole ridden) white t-shirt, shorts and bare feet.

What is love?

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
The Andrea Kellar Trio at Bennetts Lane with Tamara Murphy and legendary drummer Allan Browne, out of 5 stars I give it 6!

Is your new show going to be any good?
This is going to be an incredible collaboration uniting the undeniable force of nature that is taiko drumming with the intricate beauty and strength of Indian classical dance. Nearly two and a half years from conception this production has grown into a truly unique feast for the senses.

Tom Royce-Hampton is performing in Chi Udaka, part of Sydney Festival 2014.
Show dates: 16 – 18 Jan, 2014
Show venue: Seymour Centre