Brian Lucas takes us on a journey of make-believe myth and political propaganda, in this enrapturing encore season of his solo dance/theatre piece, Underbelly. Originally devised in association with The Australian Choreographic Centre and first performed at the Brisbane Powerhouse in 2006, the Judith Wright Centre are featuring Lucas as part of their current focus on the work of independent dancers.
Thrilling, deep and mystical, Lucas’ piece is a brilliant combination of dance, drama and fantasy. Underbelly explores the idea of making something out of nothing, whether that be a performance, a lie fed to the media, or an untruth we feed to ourselves. Lucas delves into areas such as political lies, such as the ‘boat people’; and the mythologies of fairy tales; and asks how these ideas come to be. Combining autobiography with fiction, one is unsure as to where the lies started or where the truth stopped: evidently Lucas’ metaphor for real life. In Underbelly, reality is a dark, selfish fantasy – manipulated by all, and beneficial for none.
Underbelly has multiple layers, many possible interpretations, and is highly demanding of the audience. Brian Lucas’ choreography is defiantly simple yet intricate. He practically explains the symbolism of his movement in his self-referential moments in the show, and after this had been made clear to the audience, it is amazing to witness the detail he must have agonised over during his choreographic process.
This alone makes Lucas stand out as an intellectual artist, but his ability to perform not only dance and movement but passion-infused acting amplifies his credit. His supple limbs, his flowing lines, his unique flicking arms are fascinating to watch. And the multiple characters that he plays are so vastly different and detailed. The Hag who gives birth on stage is graphic, heart-breaking and foul. The Blind Priest is vicious and evil. The Prince is so every-day, so nonchalant, so mainstream. And on top of all this, Lucas has his own asides and anecdotes which add further layers to the mix.
These multiple characters demonstrate Lucas’ idea that something can be made from nothing, or that something can have many meanings. Lucas plays many characters – some we recognise, some we don’t. The metaphors of this play are boundless.
The performance itself is excellent, and it is complemented by other elements of the show. The set is a large, square box, which diminishes in size upstage, creating a linear perspective room, similar to the shrinking room in Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Framing the box, are gold painted dolls heads or teddy bears, which are entwined with fairy lights that light up throughout intervals in the show. The box in itself is many things at once.
When Lucas first enters the stage, in his tight black pants and corset, he steps in to the box while it is lit in an amber tone, and performs Burlesque style to a 1940s style rendition of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit”. In this scene the box is reminiscent of a sepia photograph, while in other scenes, changes in lighting have the ability to change the box into a forest, a sewer, or can even appear like a dressing room mirror, when all the lights on the frame are on while everything else is black. Highly adaptable and inviting the audience’s imagination to complete the scene, the box is not only a brilliant stage apparatus, but also acts as a self-referential symbol that again displays multiplicity.
Underbelly screws with the mind and pulls out the tiny details of society that we all overlook. It is intellectual, but it is not far from the truth, whatever that may be.
Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts presents
Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Performance Space
Wed 13 – Sat 16 Jun
7.30pm (doors open7pm)
Full: Web $25, Phone & door $27
Conc. Web $18, Phone & Door $20
Box Office - 07 3872 9000
Monday to Friday 12 noon – 4pm