Review By Regan Baker
The aftermath of the Coronavirus pandemic has left the Australian arts scene in tatters and even today its effects are still being felt by thousands of creatives across our great artistic nation. 2020 was a disrupted and disturbing year and pushed all of us out of our comfort zones in ways we never thought possible. For artists it has meant finding new inspirations, new performance styles and new ways to market and present their craft to an audience that has been longing for live performance for more than twelve months now. But most importantly it lead to the otherwise unlikely collaboration between The Kite String Tangle’s Danny Harley and The Australasian Dance Collective who bring us Aftermath.
The stage is bare save for Harley’s production module that sits centre stage and the exposed brick at the back of the theatre rises ominously towards the ceiling; a perfect setting for the events that are about to unfold. A flash of bright white light. A thin rain of debris. An eerie soundscape. A body twisting and writhing on the floor. Unsettling nerves grow in the stomach as the haunted world of disquiet begins to unravel in front of us in fragments of broken memory. Six performers, each with a unique recollection of the events that transpired take us on a journey through their memories as they struggle to come to terms with, and process the aftermath of what has unfolded.
While the idea of storytelling from multiple perspectives is nothing new, the manner in which Aftermath delivers these perspectives through intertwined dance, lighting and soundscape certainly is.
Danny Harley is truly a multi-talented music producer who was just as much a star performer in Aftermath as the six dancers with whom he shared the stage. With no set design, no backdrop, no props, Aftermath took the concept of minimalism to the extreme and the entire world in which these characters recounted their story was created through the combination of his soundscape and the brilliant lighting design of Ben Hughes. The eerie environment that Harley created through his experimental soundtrack was deeply enhanced by the twisting and sometimes, almost robotic movements of the dancers.
The collaboration between co-creators Amy Hollingsworth and Jack Lister and the sound design by Harley was evidently very deep. Experimental soundscapes can often create disconnect if the performance style does not line up with the world that is being created through sound and light, but Hollingsworth’s direction blended beautifully into the aural world of Harley’s score.
Lonii Garnons-Williams shone in tonight’s preview showing and delivered a beautifully combined dance and acting performance. She seamlessly shifted between robotic motion and fluid transition while delivering genuine fear, confusion and loss through her expressions. Josephine Weise and Jack Lister stood out as star performers also and brought their own unique dance and visual style to the group, while Jake McLarnon, Chase Clegg Robinson and Jag Popham completed the cast and similarly delivered outstanding performances. The cast worked seamlessly together in all elements of their dance and made every motion appear effortless. They delivered outstanding control even in scenes of chaos and confusion and during their explosive group choreography of dives and lifts they executed each moment with stunning precision.
Sadly, this will be McLarnon’s final performance with the ADC after officially announcing his retirement at the conclusion of Aftermath’s season. “Jake is not just a phenomenally talented dancer commanding great emotional depth, remarkable technique and a profound connection with audiences, he has contributed so much off the stage as well” said Artistic Director Amy Hollingsworth on his retirement, “Or hopefully just a sabbatical; I’m still working on him,” she jokes.
While dance is certainly not my usual forte when it comes to the arts I thoroughly enjoyed tonight’s performance of Aftermath. Did I necessarily always know what was going on? No. Did it matter? Also no. Did I still have a great night? Abso-freaking-lutely. Whether dance is your jam or not, whether you are the one eagerly buying tickets or the unsuspecting partner being dragged along to the show, the near-dystopian rave that is Aftermath has something for everyone and I highly recommend getting down to the Brisbane Powerhouse this weekend to check it out!
Image Credit: David Kelly