Nothing could prepare me for Pindorama. Nothing in my years of reviewing have given me any framework for the type of performance that Lia Rodrigues has created. I will probably never again see anything like it.
We reviewers are sometimes at a loss for words when it comes to visceral performance experiences, left only to advise readers: “you’ve got to experience it yourself.” When a work leads you into new territory that leaves an impact on your psyche, words become functionally inadequate, and the process of putting descriptors on moments seems unworthy. Nevertheless, we try.
When Pindorama begins, you feel like you’re part of a school of fish in a low-lit fishtank. This submerged, wet, contained feeling continues right to the end. We wait in the middle of a black space bordered by folded white towels and jersey-clad tan-skinned performers. The already dim lights are lowered even further, and one of the performers brings on a neatly-folded plastic sheet. The performers all begin to unfold it at an achingly slow pace, the plastic crackling and popping under their hands.
Once the plastic is laid out, a bucket of clear water balloons is brought on, and the balloons are placed across the sheet. A nude woman emerges from a dark corner and pours the contents of a 2-litre water bottle over her head. She begins to crawl, again at an achingly slow pace, over the plastic, popping the balloons under her body as she goes, splashing water in small pools across the sheet.
The other performers hold the sheet at either end of the room, moving it slowly, creating ripples across its length. They move it faster, faster, increasing the pace and force of their movements until the woman in the middle is tossed around like a fish on rocks. We are sprayed with mists from the sheet; the sound of the whipping plastic is deafening. We’re all caught in a storm.
After a quick clean-up of the space, the next movement of the piece sees all the performers re-emerge nude, with the exception of four, who orchestrate the movements of the plastic sheet. The group of nudes are tossed about, flung together, clinging to each other; they’re rolled up like prawns in a rice paper roll, then sent flying into each other, rolling and groping about, trying to stay linked.
There are perhaps two or three more movements, and more clear water balloons are brought into the space - the performers placing them all around the space, at our feet, next to us; we can’t escape, we are part of the piece. The performers literally slither amongst us, popping balloons all around us with their squeaking bodies. We step out of their way, but it becomes terribly difficult to avoid getting our feet wet.
Some audience members couldn’t make it through the first 10 minutes of the piece. I myself at one stage imagined potential escape routes, as I felt pushed to the limits of sensory endurance. But I pursued, bolstered by a voice in the back of my mind urging me to stay and see it through. By the end, I tended to agree with the folks around me who giggled with delight at the wet and wild creatures at our feet.
The performers merged into one single creature that made its way through the space, and made an indelible impression on me and many others in the room that evening. There was not a single sound that wasn’t created by the objects and bodies in the room, no soundtrack other than noises like plastic popping, water splashing, limbs colliding against the floor, our gasps of surprise. No music could have been more exquisite.
Lia Rodrigues Companhia de Danças
Venue: Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre of WA
Dates: 2 – 6 Mar 2016
Tickets: $25 – $49
Part of the 2016 Perth International Arts Festival