Saturday, September 10, 2011
Human Interest Story
Belvoir presents a Lucy Guerin Inc and Malthouse Melbourne production in association with Perth International Arts Festival, HUMAN INTEREST STORY in the Upstairs Theatre, Belvoir St. Theatre.
It is all in the timing, isn't it?
Lucy Guerin Inc presents HUMAN INTEREST STORY in the Upstairs Theatre, Belvoir St, a week or so after DV8 had presented their work CAN WE TALK ABOUT THIS? at the Sydney Opera House.
Ms Guerin in her program notes introduces us to her and her company of dancer's aim to synthesise the many relationships between the news, as presented in human interest stories, and our personal experiences. Where the trivialities of our own lives and the commercial packaging that goes on around real human stories of the daily headlines on television and in the newspapers are the dominating events of our lives. "It is these tensions that become the physical material" of this work.
Keith Gallasch (Co-Editor, REALTIME) in a program essay, THE THEATRICALITY OF CONTEMPORARY DANCE, gives an overview of development of dance as theatre, and justifying its programming in a theatre company season, intimating the Pina Bausch repertoire in the 1970's as the point of emergence of the notion of Dance Theatre and the continuation of that tradition in the evolving works of Alain Patel's les ballets C de B, and Lloyd Newson's DV8, both recent visitors to these shores. He then goes on to cite some examples of Australian companies who identify themselves with this varied form: Bangarra Dance Theatre, Kate Champion's Force Majeure, Australian Dance Theatre (ADT).
He explains that Ms Guerin is not European in influence but has directly gained from her work as a dancer and emerging choreographer in New York. A more theatrical heritage. That there is a strong sense of experiment and unpredictability about her work. He mentions STRUCTURE AND SADNESS and an earlier work MELT as works of significance in her evolving repertoire. Both for me interesting works, especially MELT.
Mr Gallasch goes on: "Lucy Guerin Inc's low-tech HUMAN INTEREST STORY is about our relationship with the daily news. As nuance and empathy seem to evaporate around us, most alarmingly in the political world and media reporting, we need works that address this failure. HUMAN INTEREST STORY moves from an almost literal theatricality, amusingly embodying our engagement with the mass media on screen and then, frighteningly, with the page. …It's a powerful work, oscillating between the innocent and the ominous - a work of our time and a richly theatrical one."
This work is in its third presentation around the country: Perth, Melbourne and now Sydney. The Perth Festival in February may have let this work appear to be "of our time and theatrical" but after the experience of The Nerderlands Dance Theatre in Melbourne and DV8 in Sydney, in August, this work appears merely modestly theatrical and politically-thin if not trite.
In a black box surround, six chairs, a largish flat screen television and six broad-sheet pieces of laid out newspaper, six dancers enter in differently coloured uniforms/pyjamas. The costumes are changed often (Costume Design, Paula Levis). The atmosphere of the work attempts to be contextualised by the presence of a large military carrier truck stored in the periphery dark of the area (Set Design, Gideon Obarzanek).
The television screen lights up and the dancers in a choral voice begin dialogue accompanied with physical action/gesture/dance. The text is not very engaging or complex, and worse when the guest performer, newsreader Anton Enus, appears with a pre-recorded text, that is a faintly spoofy trivialisation of possible news reporting of human interest stories - cutesy humour - one gathers that the politics of this piece is shallow in its research and lightweight in its intention and dealing with the subject matter. It becomes obvious fairly quickly that the political over-layering is an under prepared wrapping for the dance. It has a point but not too pointy as to make the work interrogative and intellectually stimulating. It is a bit of flaccid bore. Beside the recent memory of the DV8 performance this work is indeed pallid and insipid, cowardly in its confrontation of the stated issues. "Lite", indeed.
The composition and scoring by Jethro Woodward is a contemporary mix of noise, sounds and music. The dancers are a well drilled group: Stephanie Lake, Alisdair Macindoe, Talitha Maslin, Harriet Ritchie, James Shannon and Jessica Wong. Their precision and stamina in this 60 minute work is awesome. The choreography/dance however is hugely repetitive and becomes tiresome in its lack of investigated movement variety, and, remembered beside the recent physical prowess and work of DV8, once again, achingly disappointing. Text and dance wanting, really. Standing beside the dance theatre choreographic invention and style of the Nederlands Dance Theatre, this work by Lucy Guerin Inc is banal and simplistic.
My attention span wobbled considerably during the work and was underwhelmed. Timing. If I had seen this work in February instead of September would I have been as impressed as Mr Gallasch? Thinking about it over the last few days, probably not, for I found the performance of STRUCTURE AND SADNESS similarly underwhelming, both as social commentary/politics and dance. MELT remains the highpoint of this company's output for me.
We will see this company again at Belvoir next year. It has been programmed as part of the new season.