Picnic | KAGEPhotos – Jeff Busby

Picnic is like a short story on stage, a story about a picnic. Gerard Van Dyck, Creative Director of KAGE invites the audience to join him; it turns out there are picnic items under our seats to contribute. We get snags, we get gourmet crisps, and we get a soundscape of bird song along with original music by Alisdair McIndoe. An Esky does several different turns, as babushka doll, as coffin hoisted on a pall-bearer's shoulder, as a pedestal.

Van Dyck plays around with the picnic rug, unravelling a long thread which he wraps around himself. He dances, gyrates, moves into abstract dances and poses, takes photos of himself which reappear on a silver screen propped up on the floor. Picnic is essentially Van Dyck playing elegant games of silly buggers with his props and his body – it’s a sweet performance, mostly physical theatre with some text penned by Marieke Hardy so there are moments of wit, as you’d expect; overall though, the script is thin.

Van Dyck is eminently watchable and you’re charmed by his sincerity but the whole thing doesn’t quite fulfil its promise – especially not once you read that Picnic aims to question Van Dyck’s ‘own privileged position as an artist’ and ‘reflect on his role in society’ – this reviewer didn’t get any of that out of it. There are poignant moments but it isn’t an especially moving piece, when it’s meant to be, and it seems too short and unresolved.

Picnic is adorable but bloodless. The subtlety is lovely but something fails to cohere – the stories and anecdotes and vignettes are too randomly thrown on top of each other, the whole is too slice-of-life-y. Van Dyck has plenty of cute ideas, one being encouraging the audience members to write love letters to themselves and pop them in the Esky – the letters are distributed as the audience leaves the theatre. Van Dyck finishes with a lovely parting image of a kite flying.

Although there are hints of some darker moments, on the whole Picnic is too twee and heart-warming for this old baggage. Having said all that, I really enjoyed it. Anyone would.

KAGE presents
concept and choreography Gerard Van Dyck | writer Marieke Hardy

Venue: fortyfivedownstairs | 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Dates: 19 – 30 August 2015
Bookings: 9662 9966 | fortyfivedownstairs.com

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