Sydney based dancer/choreographer Martin Del Amo uses the city as his starting point for It’s a Jungle Out There, a solo work of text and movement, with live sound by Gail Priest. He spent 24 hours wandering through all ends of Sydney, from Bankstown, to Manly Beach, Watson’s Bay and many places in between, walking blindfolded, crawling on all fours, eavesdropping and hunting for public toilets. From this out-of-the-ordinary engagement with Sydney’s topography, landmarks and people, Del Amo has constructed a performance that is fairly simple in production but highly textured and multi-faceted in content.
Del Amo could have used this robust and ripe material in a myriad of ways and the approach he has chosen is uncluttered and effective. His set is a bare stage and a concrete-looking back wall (design by Paul Matthews). It’s just him in pedestrian clothing with a head microphone and Priest downstage with a mix of drums, keyboard and various instruments, her electronic sound score rumbling underneath his verbal and physical activities.
When we first see Del Amo, he is matter-of-factly walking back and forth on stage, counting numbers that gradually get higher and higher, into the billions. He starts to repeat fragments of phrases he has heard on the street and then talk about his observations. His walking is geometric and repetitive while the litany of anecdotes runs from the mundane to the serious - signs, taxi drivers, saving a toddler’s life, karaoke, a cockroach on pavement. There is something familiar and often funny about his topics, which he weaves around each other with poetic finesse, changing tempos and rhythms, speeding up and slowing down, much like the traffic of a metropolis. He talks about the layouts of cities, their landmarks and their expected behaviours, the way that cities encourage hallucinations and their sights, smells and sounds. These are things that we know, but have never heard about in these ways before.
Interspersing his text-based segments are appealingly awkward dances in which Del Amo sheds his shirt and works in dark light, undulating and distorting his bare torso into plasticine grotesques, buffeting back and forth in low crouching jumps or performing a series of gangly weight transfers and oddly-shaped balances. He evokes subterranean forces, an individual at odds with the inscribed patterns of the city, a fleshy, chaotic being of unclear origin.
The marriage of the well-modulated and constructed text with the dark and visceral dance creates a complex and cohesive whole that communicates the dualities, contradictions and idiosyncrasies of Del Amo’s research. The thematic ideas are accessible without being banal or obvious and Del Amo sticks with the power of words, sound and body to communicate and doesn’t bring in too many extraneous elements (he never even actually shows us his hourly photos from his journey, just describes them so vividly that it is as if we have actually seen them). Without resorting to cheap tricks, Del Amo succeeds in offering a different take on a common subject and making a highly conceptual work also accessible and entertaining.
It’s a Jungle Out There
Martin del Amo
Dates: Fri 12 - Sat 13 Mar @ 8pm
Venue: Dancehouse | 150 Princes Street, North Carlton
Tickets: Full $22, Conc $18, Members $16
Bookings: www.dancehouse.com.au | 03 9347 2860
Dates: Thur 18 - Sat 20 Mar @ 7.30pm
Venue: PICA - Performance Space
Tickets: $30 Standard, $25 Art Addicts, $20 Concession
Bookings: www.pica.org.au / 08 9228 6300