Reviewer: Lewis Wheeler
The Public Reviews Rating:
The opening performance of the third semifinal of The Place Prize was Nina Kov’s Copter, a trio for one human, Kov, and two radio-controlled helicopters. The Copter was tantalisingly present onstage as the audience filed in; like the best of poetic metaphors, its presence suggested that unusual and enlightening interplays between its flight and Kov’s human movement would be explored. While Copter explored various spatial relationships between The Copter and Kov,there was a lack of correlation between the other qualities of their movement. Where direct similarities and contrasts were present, the composition did not highlight these, leaving a less than picture.
Multiple thematic ideas were referenced including helicopter gun-ship attacks, surveillance and drones, but mostly the piece focussed on Kov playing with a childlike fascination with the anthropomorphised toy. While The Copter was expertly puppeteered by Jack Bishop to display a greater range of emotion than indeed Kov herself did, little to no time was spent exploring why this had come about. The lifting of the rotor blade and the final spinning phrase could have been very poignant but only if the previous 20 minutes had been more provocative.
Neil Paris’s The Devil’s Mischief opened with a vision of Mordor in peaked cones across the stage. According to Paris’s original proposal, this duet, danced superbly by Carly Best and Sarah Lewis, explored the ambiguous, codependent relationship between humanity and the devil, however there was little evidence of this beyond red lighting and the Mordor-like set design.
The piece started as a disquieting yet tender duet, with tension so palpable that even the merest intention of one dancer to move was felt by the other. Unfortunately, while still being interesting from a movement perspective, the piece gradually dulled from this promising beginning. The intriguing and complex non-linear narrative, which had been delicately developed during the opening sequence, was initially impeded by the proscriptive vocals and then further maligned by the gradual revealing of the letters on the cones. Whereas on a micro scale the work was richly textured and complex, on a macro scale it strayed from concept to conceit.
The standout work of the evening was bgroup’s A Short-Lived Alteration Of An Existing Situation, choreographed by Ben Wright in collaboration with his dancers Sam Denton and Lise Manavit. The piece extensively explored its drily-stated theme through multiple changes to its movement content and dynamics, each change serving to build upon, enrich and develop the dancers’ relationship within the duet. Dry ice, stark lighting and industrial clanking and clanging noises within the soundscape invoked a heady, underground, Gotham City-inspired atmosphere and the absence of text-based elements allowed more room for the audience’s own imaginative response.
The programming of the evening became progressively more pure dance-oriented, culminating in Darren Ellis’s Revolver. This was danced with an ice-coolness by Hannah Kidd and Joanna Wenger to live music by The Turbulent Eddies, including Darren Ellis himself on guitar. Visually reminiscent of Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, although without the Beethoven, the piece combined endless robotic cyclical movements with live music and flashing lights. As with the dispassionate and relentless violence in Kubrick’s film, this piece felt like Ellis was trying to perform a similar act on the audience through dance while also evoking Rosas’ early works, especially Rosas & Ictus. With such strong cultural references, it was hard to appreciate Revolver in its own right; as a potential remake of Rosas & Ictus it was gripping and ambitious, however as a work exploring dancers ‘moving constantly in a clockwise direction’, it wasn’t a rewarding audience experience.
Overall, the evening’s performances were stimulating enough to firmly hold attention all the way through, but for the most part weren’t satisfying enough to come away thinking what a great night at the theatre it had been. Deservedly, bgroup came top of the night’s audience poll, but unfortunately just missed garnering a high enough score to take them through to the Place Prize Finals on that basis.