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Review: DIMANCHE at The Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre

Review By Lisa Lanzi

Dimanche is presented by performers/creators Julie Tenret, Sicaire Durieux and Sandrine Heyraud from the two Belgium based groups Compagnie Chaliwaté and Focus Cie; one more show billed for young audiences during this Adelaide Festival and recommended for ages 9+. The work combines movement/physical theatre, object theatre, marionette puppetry, stage acting and video. The two companies had long followed each other’s work and decided that collaboration would create better artistic exploration and utilize all the tools and talents the two groups offered as they felt they “spoke the same visual, artisanal (sic) and poetic language”. This work began as a short experiment at Edinburgh Fringe called Backup but comes now to the Adelaide Festival fully formed.

This work unfolds in three sections two of which look outward featuring characters that are documenting our dying planet, and one that focuses on a family situation. The issue of climate change and natural disasters is writ large here both in the macro view and the personal experience. In one scene a group of documentary film-makers are traversing the Arctic to chart the last animals living there.. disaster strikes and they are left floundering for balance amid cracking ice, yawning crevasses and finally drop into the freezing sea. However bleak this may seem, the unfolding of the scene is achieved with many theatrical devices that add whimsy and hilarity. We shift our view by virtue of the performers actions: at one moment a toy-sized truck is being pushed across a terrain formed from the actors’ bodies. The next moment we are privy to ‘inside’ the cab of the truck where the three characters are crowded in the front seat drinking coffee, smoking and trading places. The view here swaps from front to side with clever movement ploys giving us the feel of the bumpy terrain, the dark, dangerous environment and the uncomfortable interior of the vehicle. Music and sound effects play a large part in the overall production and there is no dialogue. However, some sections simply went for too long.

This fun use of scale is used elsewhere in the narrative as we shift through different times and places. For the most part these shifts are seamless and the illusions are successful. The other layer within Dimanche is film. As the human cameraman character on stage pans down to observe the cracking ice, for instance, the lights fade and we see the ‘footage’ on screen from the angle he sees through the lens: the cracking ice and the team plunging through into the frigid sea, never to be seen again. Again, for most of these transitions, the shift is seamless and an audience can happily go along with this convention.

One affecting scene is set up with the use of large scale polar bear puppets with black-clad actors as the manipulators. This is advertised as the “the most adorable polar bears you’re ever likely to see on stage”. Yes, they are quite affecting but there is a distressing end to this scene and a heavy message. Surprisingly, most of the audience when I attended were in the older demographic but it led me to wonder at the weight of this scene and, despite the comical antics, the entire unrelenting bleakness of the production and what effect that may have on young souls. I agree that children are often more resilient than we give them credit for but I have also read of the traumatic effects our climate disasters are having on the young. There was no resolution offered in Dimanche as to a way forward, and though I know the younger generations are fierce campaigners, this is a little disconcerting.

Post-show, l asked an audience member how her children reacted. She mentioned that they were a little restless (the length of the show) and somewhat disturbed by the dire images and postulations within Dimanche. One of the creators poses the question in interview: “How do we transform the weight of anxiety into the gold of hope, we must do something”. Quite true but I still fear the bleak outlook will negatively affect some, as it did me. I will be curious to know how the schools performances are received by visiting students this week. Fortunately, there is an excellent educational resource for Dimanche including a guide to talking with children about climate change :

Generally, the physicality on stage was wonderful, particularly in the family scenes where, in one instance furniture ‘melts’ from the heat, and the next they are literally blown away by the wind despite trying to enjoy a normal Sunday dinner where slapstick and Chaplinesque moves abound There is also an excellent ‘grandmother’ puppet character and a large bird with her chick, however, these parts too have depressing endings. Toward the end of the production there is one terrifying vision on screen that will resonate through your bones. Again, my concern is the way all this is interpreted by young audiences. Still, Dimanche has travelled the globe to great acclaim so perhaps I am too conservative. And there is no doubt about the talent on show.

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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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