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Review: Grand Finale at the Arts Centre Melbourne

By Chloe Perrett

The stage is filled with smoke, a single monolith with a man standing under a single white stadium light, he suddenly collapses. The lights shift and 9 more dancers appear; all of Shechter’s dancers move with such fluidity and are built like strong, athletic soldiers. The 10 dancers drive this piece as an ensemble; this elite selection of performers have been selected from nine different countries, across three different continents. At times it is suggested that there are more bodies on stage but it’s simply the clever pace and patterns they make that multiplies what the audience is witnessing. The fast pace kaleidoscopic movements don’t stop until the very end which leaves the audience in an illusion.

The imagery and themes are strong and militaristic with minimal spurts of vocals from all 10 unique and inquisitive dancers: the males are solid as they circle dance around in combat with a self protective shuffle. Grand Finale are like well rehearsed war scenes from a movie: running for cover, shooting across the stage, bodies turning limp and being carried away; the wounded being lovingly dragged and tended to in the dead space of the stage. The strongest imagery by far is the repetition of men carrying limp female bodies, dragging them across the stage and swinging the corpses from side to side. The tension rises as does the sound, like burning rage with nowhere to go. The audience is left gasping for air at the end of each sequence.

It’s Tom Visser’s stunning lighting design that compliments the shapes of bodies that emerge from smokey shadows. The narrow alleys and small passageways created by the tall pillars make it eerily something to gasp at as they sweep silently between the thick pillars, blacking out every five seconds. The various bodies move with such accuracy; at moments of pure ecstasy as if we are trapped in an infernal nightclub, sweat dripping from every inch of their bodies. Shechter doesn’t shy away from emotions such as fear, struggle, loneliness, angst and joy in this amazing 1 hour, 45 minute performance.

Grand Finale is the Israeli’s first choreographed collaboration with a set designer and first in which live musicians play classical compositions. The audience is handed earplugs as they enter to prepare for what is set to be stunning but at times painfully long stunts of screeching war-like sound. It brings joy to the ears when a waltz from The Merry Widow brings contrast to the scene, as does a Titanic-like scene which the small orchestra portray.

The choreography comes to a road block, dancers with their mouths wide open, they look to the heavens above and it begins to rain bubbles, it feels like a touch of hope in such a bleak and dark universe.

Interval leaves us with a breathless dancer slumped across a chair with a cardboard with an etching of INTERVAL carved across it. Towards the end of the short 20 minutes, a five-piece band appears and begins to play a Russian tune by Jewish composer Vladimar Zaldwich, a dance tune with strings accompanied by a short passage and a silly kazoo. The State theatre almost seems like the wrong venue for such playfulness, however the audience sings and dances along in the most adorable manner. It’s contrasting to the dancer now slumped on the opposite side of the stage with a sign that says KARMA.

Shechter seems to be whispering that that there is no escape from violent legacies in our current world state. His motifs throughout the show are constantly sculpted out of darkness with hints of strong political views. Grand Finale is an outstanding collaborative performance and left me feeling like I’d run a marathon with runner's high for hours afterwards.

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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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