Photos – Jeff Busby
Reviewing a dance performance inspired by the work of cartoonist Michael Leunig is a bit like taking a wheelbarrow full of words such as whimsical, ponderous, surreal, other-worldly, dream-like, peculiar, mysterious, melancholy, enchanting, and tipping it up so that all these words spill from the wheelbarrow like so many apples rolling across the stage floor of our imagination...
The real challenge would be to write a review of Look Right Through Me without using any of the above words because they are the obvious ones to use. Plus, I have already used them in the wheelbarrow-full-of-apples bit. So. Here we go.
Look Right Through Me is a collaboration of sorts between dance theatre company KAGE and Leunig. The press release says that it follows the story of a man waking confused after a big night out and trying to find his way home, encountering along the way inhabitants of a world he was previously unaware of.
However, I'm not sure this is exactly what I would have seen. To me it was more like watching a dance interpretation of a night of dreaming. There appeared to be the central character as both innocent child and worldly adult existing simultaneously, embarking on the kind of adventure we experience when we dream, with elements of the real world infiltrating our imagined one of dreams. Nothing makes sense, everything is disjointed yet strangely connected. There is beauty and horror as sensuality turns to nightmare, playfulness to disturbing cartoon comicality and back again.
The performers are all quite beautiful to watch. Words that could also be thrown into The Wheelbarrow Of Whimsy (trust me, this will make sense when you see the performance) could include grace, elegance, versatility and trust. During some sequences it seems that things are unfolding intuitively rather than going strictly according to the script. Choreographed or ad-libbed, it was an impressive display as our dream journey morphed from fun to fear and back again.
Props are random. A tree. A wire fence. A bed. A park bench. Two street signs give an indication of what to expect – “Dreams Will Be Towed Away”, and “No Understanding Anytime”. The soundscape is totally gorgeous and intricate, slipping easily from moody slide guitar to cartoon FX boinginess. Mood changes frequently from comforting to disturbing.
There are 'aah' moments of sweetness and joy: the dog wandering on snuffling for hidden treats; the boy lifted on the end of the ladder; the closing sequence of our protagonist – young and old versions together – blowing feathers into the air as the wire barrier lifts.
There is a lot you could read into this performance, but it's a bit like trying to interpret dreams. They're slippery things, and like the work of Mr Leunig they're an enigmatic glimpse into a world where Hope and Longing hold hands and wander off into the sunrise.
Malthouse Theatre & KAGE present
Look Right Through Me
Director Kate Denborough
Venue: Malthouse Theatre | CUB Malthouse, Merlyn Theatre 113 Sturt St Southbank
Dates: 7 – 18 September, 2011
Tickets: $26.00 – $52.00
Bookings: 03 9685 5111