Disagreeable Object is the latest work presented by contemporary dance company, Chunky Move. Choreographed and performed by Michelle Heaven in collaboration with Brian Lucas, Disagreeable Object is a cohesive vision, a strange and macabre world filled with nuance and shadow.
Crammed into a box within a box within a box the audience sits in a tiny theatre custom built for the piece. The proscenium is square and creates a cinematic frame through which the work is viewed. The movement vocabulary itself is at times staccato, reminiscent of silent film, with scattered use of tableaux and illusion.
A stunning lighting design from Ben Cobham of Bluebottle produces a beautifully rendered sense of depth; it seemed at times as if the figures were floating in a vast blackness. The lighting worked in focusing the space as well as manipulating the frame, stabilising and de-stabilising the action, creating vast caverns and claustrophobic caves with the shift of an angle.
A tense dynamic of proportion and scale was immediately achieved, merely through the performers physicality (Heaven is tiny, while Lucas towers above her). This unease is also reflected in the physical environment, some props are too small while others too large. The tension between actual size and scale was an effective device and could have been explored and exploited to a greater extent throughout the work.
Heaven and Lucas displayed a heightened physicality and sparse stylised movement, layered with detailed idiosyncratic gestures and subtle facial tics. There were different movement qualities at play - the slow lilting and awkward gait of the male character juxtaposed with frenetic movements of the female.
Lucas’ tragic clown face balanced perfectly with Heaven’s scheming black widow. He lurches ominously in the background while she fusses and plots, neurotically polishing the furniture or concocting potions, heightening the American gothic aesthetic of the piece.
The introduction of a narrative seemed like somewhat of an afterthought and occurred quite late in the work. Up until that point the action had consisted of abstract interactions with numerous tableaux, more atmospheric and suggestive than driven by concrete motivations and plot. This provoked several questions about the characters themselves and their relationship to each other. Why and how did they exist in this space together? And why did she plot to poison him?
Disagreeable Object was previously staged at The Meat Market in 2008 but still appears more like exploration than a completed work. However it is ably supported by production values - if a little outshone by them.
Chunky Move presents
created by Michelle Heaven
Venue: Chunky Move Studios, 111 Sturt St South Melbourne
Dates: Tue 21 – Sat 25 July
Tickets: Seated: Adult $25 / Concession $18 | Standing: $15 (*plus booking fee)
Duration: 30 mins
Bookings: m-tix.com.au or 9685 5111