Review By Hannah Fredriksson
I wasn't really sure what to expect from Leviathan, I knew it would be a mostly physical performance combining dance and circus, but the promotional images in black and white didn't give too much away – and certainly did not indicate the amount of colour that would appear on the stage.
Two feet poked out from under the vast red curtain of Regal Theatre, which was humorous in a macabre sort of way. The curtain rose to reveal a whimsical mess of strewn streamers, leaving the sense of a party long abandoned. The feet belonged to a young girl wearing a party hat – she stood at the fore of the stage as though responsible for the vibrant debris behind her.
I had nearly forgotten we were here to see an acrobatic performance until two men appeared on the stage and one climbed the other until he was standing on his shoulders. Then a third man appeared and climbed on top of the previous man’s shoulders, and my sense of acrophobia started to kick in as I firmly believe nobody should ever be that high off the ground. The tower of three men then slowly started to lean and then it became apparent they were falling – at first this seemed unintentional but then each of the men tumbled gracefully and sprung up onto their feet. The audience let out a gasp that turned into relieved laughter as the tension lifted – it served as a reminder that the performers were in control of what they were doing and we could relax for the remainder of the evening.
The lights were dimmed briefly and then suddenly there were over thirty performers sitting in yellow plastic chairs dotted around the stage amongst the colourful streamers. It was impressive that throughout the show you never really saw performers enter or leave the stage; they would just emerge from the shadows or the smoke, or else appear whilst you were watching action in another part of the stage. These seamless transitions were incredibly impressive for the cast of 39 performers from Circa, CircusWA, CO:3 Australia and MAXIMA Circus.
When asked about the story behind this work, director Yaron Lifschitz stated ‘Leviathan was born from my desire to make a really big group show; a show featuring most of our ensemble on the stage at once. That connected with my interest in ideas of freedom and responsibility and how these factors play out in society at large.' These ideas of freedom and responsibility were shown through a series of grids, setting structure and expectations that the performers both adhered to and defied. A 6x6 grid taped to the floor became a boundary for one performer, whose space became steadily more confined as the tape was pulled up piece by piece, until he had only a single cell to freely express himself in.
The most notable grid however was the large one that descended from the ceiling while the performers stood to the side gazing up at it like a UFO descending from the heavens. One by one they traversed the grid like a community facing adversity together.
The grid was utilised in a number of ways and at various angles. I was incredibly impressed when one of the performers hung from the edge by his hands, and the remaining members of the cast climbed up the grid and descended down him like a rope. This was a remarkable feat of endurance given the size of the cast.
The costuming was interestingly understated, it almost appeared that the performers were invited to wear whatever they like so long as it did not inhibit their movements; t-shirts, singlets, shorts, loose pants. Given the simplicity of the costuming and the variety of ages between the performers, it truly felt like we were watching a dramatisation of the trials and tribulations of a random selection of the community.
At times live video footage of the performance was projected onto the rear screen. Often this footage was an overhead view, presenting a perspective that would otherwise be impossible for the audience to see. A delay effect was used to create a visual illusion as the performers ran in concentric circles using the taped grid as a guide. The video footage also highlighted the stunning use of lighting slowly moving through a series of dramatic angles, often appearing ethereal and other-worldly. Between the suspended grid, the shifting lighting and the performers creating towers often three or more high, every dimension of the stage was considered.
Leviathan is a remarkable feat of co-ordinating 39 performers in a seamless display of strength and acrobatic skill. It was equally thrilling and awe inspiring, combining the common with the surreal. The creative use of multi-media in presenting the action from different perspectives sets it apart as a triumph for Perth Festival.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.