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Review: Manifesto at the Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne

Review by Mish Graham


Manifesto is truly a feast for the senses. This fusion of contemporary dance and physical theatre produced a playful energy that captivated the opening night audience from start to end. The show opened with nine performers seated in a semi-circle on black chairs with nine drummers evaluated behind them. The staging was elegant and thoughtful; ensuring that each audience member would get a good view from wherever they may be seated.


The beginning took many of us by surprise and one man’s verbose laughter, at the sudden start of the performance, was particular memorable. It was as if we were being invited to be the tenth member of the players on stage and we welcomed the offer. Our curiosity only grew as we witnessed overflowing joy, utter chaos and moments of sustained stillness that held us until our next breath.


Everything came to life here in the stunning Playhouse Theatre. The lighting had its own character, they brought out humour in sound and stillness, a simple facial expression created an audience response.


The powerful rhythmic element of the show cannot be overstated. I had never seen nine drummers with their drum kits, on one stage and this revealed how versatile drummers really are. Creating oceans of sound between them, they met the energy of the other players’ equally. It was truly a collaborative effort.


The way the performers owned the pace was incredible to see. With chair breaking and a nudie-run, they were fearless and it seemed that anything was possible on that stage. The levels used, the pace, the intuitive nature of the piece and the fluidity in moment, all illumining how incredible the human body can be. Each ‘body’ bringing its unique perspective to the group tableau, forming and re-forming while bringing their own expression to each movement.


My favourite things about the production over all is that inclusivity. Sitting there in Row E, seat 4 I could feel the drums through the ground. I could see the fusion of movement, response and creativity. The sense of enjoyment that the performers exuded was contagious and spread through the room. I believe my Deaf friends would enjoy it, families can attend together (seated in front of my where parents with their two children). Manifesto is for those who thrive on the abstract; it’s all there for you. It’s for those who look for a linear narrative, you’ll have plenty of time to search for it. This really is an accessible show, for everyone.


Treading the balance of freedom to play and restriction to perform, it was a perfect blend of human agility and fragility. A stunning piece of work. Thank you players, drummers, production and of course composer Robin Fox and choreographer Stephanie Lake. Congratulations on bringing such an audacious vision to life. The Melbourne audience loves you, I believe this was made obvious by the standing ovation, right?

Image Supplied

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