Paradise City | Branch NebulaPhotos - Heidrun Lohr

Something remarkable happened. Families with young children; men wearing flipped up baseball caps and baggy pants; and friends who greet each other with a series of nods and hand shakes, all showed up to watch a contemporary performance. Not exactly the typical ‘contemporary performance’ crowd. A new type of audience was created. An audience with a genuine interest in the forms being explored, moreso than the themes. The creator of this audience was Paradise City.

Paradise City, a creation of Branch Nebula, combines dance, acrobatics, BMX, skateboarding and singing to explore street culture. Branch Nebula, founded in 1998 by Mirabelle Wouters and Lee Wilson, is interested in seeking out the “low-brow” forms of contemporary culture, and sharing them with an audience. More specifically, Paradise City, is an exploration of the organic nature of street culture - its creation, its method of sharing rather than teaching, and its simple ethos of existing and being. While there is this beautiful poetic and theoretical scenery underpinning this production, it is not for these reasons that one wishes to see the show. Frankly, all we want to see is what happens when someone tries to dance with a guy on a BMX.

The answer to this query, is that it is very cool. The exciting moments were created when you could see the connection between the forms because of the movements they were executing.

Some brilliant examples of this included the pas de deux between the dancer and the BMX, where similar pirouetting movements created an unexpected synergy between the pair. Or when the breakdancer had a dance-off with the skateboarder. A breathtaking moment was the disrobing of the singer by the acrobat, who stole all her clothes while the singer continued in her slow lament. And the general frenetic energy, when all performers were moving around the stage in a highly choreographed yet apparently chaotic series of movements, literally had the audience on the edge of their seats.

However, it seemed that these exciting moments were few and far between. There were quite a few slow sections, where not much appeared to be happening, other than the obvious ‘build-up’ for the next scene. While this contrast certainly highlighted the exciting moments, it did tend to be a little nonchalant in the between moments. Perhaps this is simply an expression of the street culture attitude, that not everything has to be purposeful, and things can simply just occur because you want them to.

It was great to see new faces and new people attending a piece of contemporary theatre, who were interested and intrigued by the work because of its creative manipulation of street culture. It is not unfair to say that without the BMX or the skateboard, perhaps half the audience would not have attended. For this achievement, bringing new attitudes into the theatre forum, I commend Paradise City. Not only was it an exciting piece of contemporary performance, but it also excited people who would not normally step into this realm. It seems almost rebellious to state it, but perhaps by assimilating more with the mainstream, the fringe can become more successful.

Branch Nebula’s

2008 National Tour Dates

Brisbane Brisbane Powerhouse  9 – 12 April | 07 3358 8600 or
Darwin Darwin Entertainment Centre 15 – 16 April | 08 8980 3333 or
Alice Springs Araluen Arts Centre 18 – 19 April | 08 8951 1122 or
Adelaide Festival Centre 23 – 26 April | 08 8216 8600 or
Perth PICA 30 April – 10 May | 08 9228 6300 or
Melbourne Artshouse 14–17 May | 03 9639 0096 or
Wodonga Wodonga Civic Centre 21 May | 02 6022 9223 or
Wollongong Merrigong Theatre Co. 23 – 24 May | 02 4226 3366 or
Sydney Performance Space 28 May – 7 June | 02 9698 7235 or
Sydney Casula Powerhouse 10–11 June | 1300 795 012 or

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