By Lisa Lanzi
A spare set on the Scott Theatre stage with several hanging microphones, wooden tabletops leaning on their sides; a subtle recorded piano backing as if from an old and scratched LP record sets the scene as the preview audience noisily seats themselves with great anticipation for this first (and world premiere) production of the 2019 Adelaide Festival of Arts from the thrilling team at Gravity and Other Myths.
As the auditorium lights dim, we perceive figures in pedestrian attire approaching the stage (from a surprising direction), lighting their way with powerful torches and starting to speak - a chaotic babble ensues as the performers form up and talk over each other broadcasting their inner thoughts in a ‘stream-of-consciousness’ fashion. Presently, the performers themselves alter the lighting state by shifting the positions of the various stage lanterns which is a recurrent theme throughout the performance.
Onstage musician Ekrem Phoenix (with sublime tenor voice, digital tablet, xylophone and bow) controls the work’s entire haunting and original score, programing subtle loops and providing live vocal and instrumental input. This next section, in a semi-dark state, evokes a mysterious subterranean province where eerie shapes constructed from entwined human bodies are glimpsed as musician, sound and the lighting traverse the landscape. Geoff Cobham is the lighting designer and the moods he creates along with the originality of delivery enhance and are perfectly in harmony with all production elements.
The mood morphs to a brighter, more humorous tone soon enough where the performers can shine on many levels: Martin Schreiber, Simon McClure, Lisa Goldsworthy, Lewis Rankin, Dylan Phillips, Lewie West, Mieke Lizotte and Amanda Lee are transcendent in their skill, professionalism and onstage flair. The audience audibly gasps and bursts into spontaneous applause at many points when the danger and daring tenor of the acrobatics simply astounds. Not only are these performers adept in their own familiar fields, they are required to speak text and banter with each other while performing complex routines.
The thematic and physical connection to the work’s title is reflected in the chaotic gathering and dispersing of bodies within the choreography, the swinging, the flinging, the twirling plus the soaring, breath-taking elevations, only to come at times to a still point where order is restored and the audience can take a breath. We are exposed to alternating states of speed and thrilling movement then tranquillity and elegance - a fabulous journey for the viewer to undertake.
It is enormously satisfying to observe flawless acrobatic ‘tricks’ seamlessly flowing into and around creative choreography with planned dramatic tension and release - all the time paired with effortless precision and no hint of awkward transitions, thanks to Darcy Grant’s thoughtful direction. Not all physical theatre endeavours are successful in that elusive blend. Excitement, pathos, humour and tenderness are evoked with truthfulness and panache and it is impossible to take one’s eyes away from the spectacle.
Go and see this production. Take younger people and let them experience boundless theatrical possibility in this excellent hybrid performance.
Photo Credit: Darcy Grant
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.