How do we live our lives knowing that we are going to die? As Legs on the Wall’s production of Beyond Belief notes, one minute you can be staring at the clouds and the next you can be gone.
With every new production, Legs on the Wall reinvents itself. Every work in its repertoire is distinctly different and original, consistently exploring the physical theatre form. It ranges from the extraordinary physical prowess of its monumental works, to innovative and intensely dramatic narrative, post modern works and clever and charming character pieces. Most notably though, throughout all the productions, the company has created and extended a physical language that draws on elements of dance, acrobatics, circus and theatre. Regardless of the style and size of the production, Legs on the Wall always takes its audience on both a physical and intellectual journey.
Beyond Belief is different again. A collaboration between writer, Stephen Sewell, director, Debra Batton and the performers Alexandra Harrison, Kate Sherman and Alan Clarke, it is a production of symbols and ideas. It is essentially a contemplation about our humanity and death.
It explores issues of creativity, belief, temperament, death, aspirations, beauty and meaning. The company plays out a series of vignettes depicting these aspects of our humanity.
Batton layers the vignettes creating a non linear, non narrative structure. She juxtaposes and repeats these themes, pitting scenes depicting our most superficial aspirations against scenes about our need for something beyond ourselves. She contrasts scenes depicting anger and then optimism; frustration and beauty.
While not always playing the same character, the three recurring characters are driven by different needs: one needs to dominate, one needs to communicate with a being beyond herself and one needs to explore and appreciate the world. Two of the three grapple with their constraints while the other with her own aggression.
The three very different performers blend well together. Alexandra Harrison’s fluid physical style brings a strong sense of cohesion throughout her work. Her two recurring motifs of constraint and engagement with another being provide some of the most interesting work in the show. Clearly a talented physical performer, there are times when her routines could be developed even further – the skirt routine has endless possibilities, for instance.
Kate Sherman’s high energy, pugilistic style is just right for her character’s larrikin and domineering persona. Similarly Alan Clarke embodies a suitable curiosity and innocence.
Carl Polke’s wonderful, eclectic score, encompassing thrashy guitars, dance music and jazz, sets the tone of every vignette, at times guiding the audience through the nuances of the piece and, at others, acting as an ironic counterpoint.
The performers make good use of designer Cat Raven’s stage design, climbing within and around the small colourful picture box and using the floor for their more expansive physical and dramatic work. The neon sign bearing gently comic/melancholic, possibly religious messages reflects a contemporary ambivalence towards faith.
Beyond Belief doesn’t contain the spectacular and ground breaking physicality that so often marks the company’s work. The physical language in this production has been pared back and distilled to deliver a more selective and austere style. It is more internalized and has moved from the overtly physical to the dramatic, thereby producing a taut, intimate and thoughtful work.
Legs on the Wall present
Venue: Bay 20, CarriageWorks | 245 Wilson Street, Eveleigh (nearest train station: Redfern)
Dates: 31 July – 4 August 2007
Previews: Sat 28 July at 8pm & Mon 30 July at 6.30pm
Performances: Tues 31 July, Wed 1 Aug, Fri 3 Aug, Sat 4 Aug at 8pm
Matinee: Sat 4 Aug at 2pm + free post-show talk
Tickets: Adult $30 / Concession and MEAA $25 | Student Rush: $15 at the door on Mon 30 July at 6.30pm & Wed 1 Aug at 8pm