roadkill | DancenorthCover photo - Craig Skelly

Upon first reading the title for this review, Roadkill did not conjure very enticing imagery nor did it give much insight into what the performance could possibly be about – aside from obvious. That is where it started and ended for me, with ambiguity.

Roadkill, a dance performance direct from ‘The Barbican’ in London, created by Splintergroup, produced in collaboration with the Powerhouse and Dancenorth in association with Sasha Waltz, depicted a harrowing and suspenseful story about what we only ever know to be hearsay and myth regarding our outback and its vast, wide open and mysterious spaces. Roadkill was a gripping and macabre peek through the secret window of speculation.

Prior to seeing this performance, Roadkill was described to me as being Wolf Creek in dance form. This analogy added to the intrigue that already surrounded my perception of what the story could possibly be about and how a cinematic performance could be interpreted and executed through dance. The creators of RoadkillGavin Webber, Grayson Millwood and Sarah-Jane Howard - were the dancers and main characters throughout the dramatisation, which was part road movie, part reenactment of the surreal outback stories that have smattered our media over the years about Australia’s mysterious highway misadventures.

The scene was that of a couple, a broken down car and a single phone box on the side of a road. This scenario did not change throughout the performance. The dialogue was sparse and when we did hear one of the characters speaking it was out of context, muffled and indiscernible creating a sense of madness, which I have often heard, is a common symptom felt by some when traveling through the desert. The scenes repeated themselves, each having a different ending which when combined with the lack of narrative, heightened the sense of confusion and anxiety about what was really transpiring onstage. There were however, moments of heartfelt warmth and humour shared between the stranded couple as they wiled away the hours of nothingness and isolation, but that was prior to the introduction of the ‘helping hand’ who was not, it would soon became apparent, sent to act as their saviour.

The language used to communicate the unfolding drama was a magnificently timed technical dance routine and breath. The use of breath is worth noting because it helped create a sense of desperation and fear, which became the resounding ethos of Roadkill. Cleverly concealed microphones placed inside the car were able to magnify the silence, punctured only by the sound of heavy breathing, which created the disquiet and panic felt by the couple as they faced the prospect of what may happen to them out here in the middle of nowhere at the mercy of a madman. Though it was not entirely clear what happened to the characters, and I am not entirely clear whether or not this was a deliberate tactic created by Dramaturg Andrew Ross, what was obvious was the use of iconography (i.e. road signs, river stones and trees) to create a sense of ‘where’ and a technically complex dance routine to create a sense of ‘how’.

Roadkill effectively delivered to audiences a concept of the mystery surrounding what has happened to many travelers and backpackers in remote parts of this country over the years. It seemed that Andrew Ross did not seek to answer the questions about what exactly happened nor did his script attempt to highlight any one particular occurrence, which may have inspired the creation of Roadkill. The story that was conveyed in this production, via a contemporary, expressionist and interpretive dance, was a thriller of its own fashion with no particular ending. 

Brisbane Powerhouse and Dancenorth in association with Sasha Waltz present 

Powerhouse Theatre
Dates/Times: Wed 28 November – 1 December, 7:30pm
Tickets: $36/$30 (Gallery) $27
Bookings: 3358 8600 or

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