Cover photo - Craig Skelly
The Australian outback has long upheld its reputation for being a vast, mysterious and in the right circumstances, terrifying place. The desert contains the stuff of myths and legends, ghost stories, sudden disappearances and convoluted murder cases.
Brisbane based dance group Splintergroup explore this unforgiving terrain in their physical theatre piece Roadkill - a co-production between Brisbane Powerhouse and Dancenorth.
Perhaps an unconventional form for the subject matter, as the outback is usually reserved for the panorama of film. But Roadkill embraces the abstract nature of contemporary dance to traverse the thin line between reality and fantasy, fracturing notions of linear narrative.
Presented as part of The Arts House Dance Massive Festival, Roadkill begins with a familiar situation. A couple (Gavin Webber and Sarah-Jayne Howard) have broken down in the outback. They have no mobile reception and are stranded next to a defunct phone box. At first they embrace the situation and playfully wile away the hours by engaging in strenuous lovemaking, resulting in an endearing backseat romp. But as the situation endures we witness the disintegration of the central relationship and the emergence of a menacing male figure (Grayson Millwood). The evolution of fear and mistrust begins as the relationships between the characters blur and unravel.
Roadkill slides through time and space and is filled with imagined endings and dream sequences. The performers chase each other down performative rabbit holes to present a strange, shadowy and subjective world, captured with a filmic sensibility.
The performers use cinematic conventions to explode split second moments, focussing audience attention through the use of slow motion and retrograded movement. The dancers use intense physicality and remarkable strength and agility to extract minute details and examine physical pathways with pinpoint articulation. The backwards journey over the top of the car was a particular highlight.
The tense performance score by Luke Smiles and the crisp lighting design by Mark Howett and Ben Cisterne combine to fill Roadkill with a sense of menace and apprehension. The choice of performance space also adds atmosphere. The cavernous interior of The Meat Market extends the edges of the performance, evoking the unimaginable vastness and at the same time, claustrophobic nature of the Australian outback.
Roadkill is all encompassing physical theatre. Every element of the performance has been developed with equal attention paid to its evolution, creating a theatrical experience that is complete physically, aesthetically, visually and aurally. It is exciting and innovative work and sets an admirable benchmark for physical theatre practitioners not only in Australia, but internationally.
Arts House and Mobile States present
Choreographed by Splintergroup
Venue: Arts House, Meat Market, 5 Blackwood Street, North Melbourne
Dates: 5 - 8 March
Tickets: Full $25 Conc $18
Times: Thu – Sat 7.30pm, Sun 5pm
Bookings: 03 9639 0096 or www.dancemassive.com.au