Review By Lisa Lanzi
This performance opens with a trigger warning and is listed as R18+, only suitable for adult audiences. Fair enough. Issues of addiction and substance abuse form the basis for a dance work from Adelaide-based Delinquent Creatives.
Creative Director Fiona Smith is the leading light in this company responsible for three different shows at this 2023 Fringe. In Bones, Smith is joined on stage by Sarah Wilson, Arran Beattie, Ina Young, and one other person I could not find a name for (such is the problem with no access to a program). Each of these performers is gifted in their own way, and Beattie makes for a powerful addition with his direct address to the audience in the guise of a therapist/guru. It would be great to know the source of the monologue, or if they wrote it.
The impressions of various addictions are woven around a very loose, somewhat earnest narrative based on the presence of a therapist (sometimes seated in a very traditional Freudian-styled armchair) and their ability to ‘fix’ you. Finally, in quite the oversimplification, Beattie’s therapist seems all-powerful, able to make the problem disappear simply by removing the offending device, bottle, vape, foodstuff, etc. The production is episodic with each scene representing a different issue. Some humour is present where a shopping compulsion or social media obsession is highlighted; though the dark side makes an appearance when it seems the bullying potential on social media manifests.
One dancer performs demanding choreography flawlessly but is beset by body dysmorphia and uses sticky tape to violently ‘amend’ her appearance and a pen to dot areas they might like to surgically alter. Another performs a blend of acrobatics and dance where alcohol seems to be the issue. Still another dance explores nicotine addiction, including the twitchiness of withdrawal. I believe this performer was Sarah Wilson exhibiting divine technique throughout the entire show. Eating disorders also find a place in the line-up when a pyjama-clad dancer is tempted to cram a variety of food into her mouth, while still moving beautifully. While the recorded music for these segments were apt, and the execution of movement was very good, these scenes were generally a little too long.
Some group movement sequences were hypnotic and any duet work was strong. The group sometimes broke the fourth wall, entering and exiting from the audience, or approaching the audience with a question or a gesture of need. Costuming was either all black for ensemble moments or varied when characterisation was to be front and centre. Props use also formed an important element. Lighting was often dim and mysterious but sometimes didn’t show enough of the choreography.
The creatives contributing to Bones have talent and I absolutely believe their Fringe guide statement about the importance of the thematic material is authentic, both to the performers individually and in a global sense. As a former professional dancer and a female, I get it. As someone who has seen the lives of friends destroyed by addiction, I empathise. While many of the elements of this production are extremely good, the work itself is not cohesive. Rather, Bones is a concert showcasing the performers and their considerable skills. There is not quite enough emotional connection generated, possibly because of the episodic nature. I would love to see this work transferred to a different venue and re-imagined as a complete, uninterrupted, choreographed dance theatre work rather than the series of vignettes as it currently stands.
Addiction plus the ramifications for both the sufferer and those around them are, without doubt, important subjects. To be taken into a theatrical arena, a work with such highly emotional content needs to pull no punches. I believe Delinquent Creatives have the skill to do this, but Bones is perhaps a pre-cursor to something more fully realised down the track.