Dance / “Happiness is…Celebrating 40 Years of Canberra Dance Theatre”. Directed by Jacqui Simmonds at The Street Theatre. October 14. Reviewed by BILL STEPHENS
“FUSE” is the first of three offerings in the Ralph Indie 2017 program. The program supports artists to develop and present new performance works, and encourages innovation, experimentation and cross-disciplinary investigations.
In creating their purposely ambiguous work, dancer Jack Riley and sound artist and composer, Alexander Hunter have set out to “explore the possible (dis)connections and relationships between sound and movement, light and dark, dominance and subjugation, interiors and exteriors and reality and fantasy”, drawing their inspiration from sci-fi and fantasy films and books as well as Ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian mythology.
According to their program notes they approached the project with no preconceived ideas of content or structure, simply utilising objects found in the space when they arrived. And that’s exactly how it looks.
A promising sense of mystery is established when a figure (Alexander Hunter), wearing a dark boiler suit and welding mask, enters pushing a trolley on which appears to be a bubble-wrapped body. Leaving the trolley, he moves to the side of the stage, sits on a stool and commences to play a series of strident chords on the cello. Slowly the body on the trolley begins to move and unwrap, revealing Jack Riley, dressed in a white boiler suit, who sets about ceremoniously transferring a set of metal cylinders from the trolley and carefully arranges them on a white cloth at the side of the performance area.
Once this task is completed, Riley removes the trolley, and then takes the bow, cello and stool from Hunter. Hunter leaves the stage and from then until the final section, a moody recorded soundscape accompanies the activity, which includes Riley running and sliding on a wooden platform leaning against a wall, cutting a cord with scissors to set off pulsing strip lights on the other wall, and whirling a set of wheeled stairs which he brings on to the stage to the accompaniment of a poem intoned through the soundscape.
Eventually Hunter re-enters, walks up the stairs towards a mirror, while Riley rewraps himself in bubble-wrap, and as the lights fade, slowly drags the cloth with the metal cylinders on the stage.
All this mildly interesting activity takes about 30 minutes and it’s left to each member of the audience to draw their own conclusions as to the symbolism, which even accepting the experimental nature of the piece, is remarkably opaque. From the little actual dance contained in the piece, it’s obvious that Riley is a talented dancer, so it’s a pity he didn’t use this opportunity to explore that talent rather than indulging in the pretentious claptrap he presents here.