Photos - Jeff Busby
Over the recent years, Lucy Guerin has been filtering more and more of the personal into her abstracted virtuosic vocabulary. Human Interest Story is probably the farthest yet that she has come in this direction. Its subject is the deluge of information that the media hits us with everyday – newspaper, news feeds and Twitter alerts that talk of wars, environmental collapse and natural disasters - and how those horrific and heavy subjects inform our everyday lives that are so removed from such grand scale chaos.
Just like the life size army tanker that remains dimly lit upstage behind the dancers (set designed by Gideon Obarzanek), the information is incessant and even when it’s not talked about, it’s hovering like a grey cloud in the background. Guerin successfully creates a tension between the micro and the macro, the mundane and the grandiose, requiring her dancers to oscillate between text and pure movement, humour and horror, mannered gesture and seemingly out of control aggression.
The cast of six take it all in stride, convincingly going to dark places and just as adroitly reveling in the lighter side of the material – celebrity gossip, work anecdotes, mindless chatter. Seated in a line facing an oversized television screen, they mono-dimensionally talk and gesture news reports, flicking heads side to side or slipping off balance in dispassionate ways. They are equally assured in crisp, detailed duets that require one to manipulate the other with workmanlike-precision, punctuated only by the occasional bounce or slow run. When conversation shifts to Stephanie Lake, she doesn’t have thoughts about Julia Gillard’s climate change policy, but can ramble comfortably about her kids’ dinner. Flopping around in a sloppy solo dance, she articulates her answers in a lack luster, slow paced drawl.
It’s these sorts of back and forth scenarios between personal and public, highlighted by a guest appearance (via the television) by newsreader Anton Enus giving us the latest breaking news in the dancers’ own lives that propel Human Interest Story through its 70 minutes. Jethro Woodward’s sound score, in which white noise mixes with pop and rock, drives the action with its constant presence that is sometimes an overt barrage and other times barely there.
By the time the work shifts into its final section - dancers in simple black outfits and sharp, diagonal lights (lighting by Paul Jackson) chopping the stage up with long shards of illumination, the work turns purely abstract. Initiated by a convulsing solo by Harriet Ritchie, the dance feels totally frenetic, yet there is no question that the dancers are in complete control. Duets form and dissolve, arms and bodies fly; there is a bit of trashy rock dancing, a lot of darting and whip-sharp arms – perhaps an evocation of the anarchy of war or a society out of control, or perhaps just the frustration of the individual, a cog in the relentless stream.
Guerin leaves this ambiguous, which works within the context of what has already evolved. Unlike the coolness, at times the (intentional) dispassion of the earlier material, this last section hits a nerve – it’s visceral and emotional, occasionally spine tingling, bringing some real humanness into the whole Human Interest Story conceit.
It’s not just the choreography that excels here though – each and every one of the dancers is right there in the moment, going somewhere far beyond their personal comfort zone. Ritchie, in particular, is so phenomenal that at times it’s impossible to stop watching her and Stuart Shugg reveals a feistiness never seen before.
Lucy Guerin Inc presents
Human Interest Story
Venue: Merlyn Theatre | The Cub Malthouse, 113 Sturt Street Southbank Vic
Dates: 23 July – 1 August. Tuesday @ 6.30pm, Wednesday – Saturday @ 7.30pm, Sunday 1 August @ 5pm.
Matinee: Saturday 31 July @ 2pm
Tickets: $23 – $49 + Booking Fee
Bookings: www.malthousetheatre.com.au | 03 9685 5111