— CNP

Sydney Festival Briefs

Kaidan

Meryl Tankard has choreographic cachet coming out her ears and her latest offering doesn’t disappoint. Inspired by a Japanese ghost story and featuring live music by Taikoz, Tankard has clearly steeped herself and her dancers in the musical and physical traditions of the land of the rising sun without falling victim to hollow exoticism or reverent orientalism. Dynamic, breathtaking and lyrical, Kaidan is a highlight in a rich dance program this year.

White Cabin

Dada goes to Russia, finds some friends and has a great time with plenty of claret and cigarettes. An hour of engrossing and inventive clowning, absurdism and mouth-agape magic. The AKHE company love the role of entertaining provocateur and the entire show is premised on tapping straight into the subconscious of the audience, so forget literal narrative and bring on a cavalcade of images, stunts, art references and physical hilarity. My favourite.

Midsummer Night’s Dream

Yohangza, a young Korean theatre company, have re-interpreted the Bard’s work in a fun concoction of Korean folklore, slapstick and rollicking rom-com. They turn the cheese-factor up to eleven from the very beginning, when the twin Pucks do a cute and smiley mobile phone warning. You either go with it or you don’t—I did. I imagine that the sheer energy and bravura of the ensemble eventually overcomes even the most jaded audience. Some of the character transpositions are inspired—Bottom becomes a superstitious, urinating, herb-collecting hag and steals the show—other characters disappear—the ham of the players being dispersed throughout the cast.

Circa

The Space Between

Brisbane’s Circa perform a blend of physical theatre and circus in this prosaic piece. Alternating between electronica and French chanson with dispiriting regularity, the soundtrack doesn’t serve them particularly well and the piece as a whole needed a director’s hand to vary the rhythms and moods. The trio’s strength, balance, synchronicity and skills are remarkably strong but drawn out over an hour and given a solemn dramatic throughline the piece lacks verve or any significant sense of theatre. The stunts become predictable and meaningless and the performers physical acumen tarnished.

Devolution

Adelaide’s ADT are often one of the most exhilarating dance companies around. The overarching aesthetic of the choreography is highly athletic and punishingly brutal. In recent productions, such as Held and Devolution, a focusing narrative or theme is eschewed for a unifying creative concept. In Held it was the juxtaposition of moving reality against static image—dancers on stage were captured in midflight by a photographer whose images were instantly projected onto two screens. In Devolution, we are presented with the contrast between the organic human form and the artificial pneumatic form of robots. Unfortunately, the full potential is only touched on in fleeting moments and the majority of the piece struggles to link the disparate forms in anything but token ways. The tempo of the dancing is set high from the beginning and doesn’t waver—one is waiting for a climax that never comes. A disappointing though technically remarkable production.