Shadowland | PilobolusLeft – Photo Emmanuel Donny. Cover – Photo John Kane

This is another performance I didn't really know much about before seeing it. I saw a sort promo clip somewhere and thought it looked like fun, the kind of thing my inner child might appreciate after being neglected for so long.

For some reason – something to do with it being a show about tricks with light, shapes and shadows, I expected it to be a collection of unrelated vignettes, which is why I took out my pen and notebook; narrative, I don't need to take notes, but a collection of short pieces... ergh, must scribble in the dark.

As the show got underway, though, I realised that this was actually a story, not many stories. And a gentle fantasy story at that.

The story appears to be of a young teen girl yearning for something... escape... the future... something. She either falls asleep or steps into another world. The mood is one of dark and whimsical fantasy. This world certainly is the stuff of dreams, of strange otherworldly creatures, of villains who chase you, of surreal landscapes and strange chance encounters. It's a quest story, with the heroin being given a burden and being forced to go on a journey and overcome many obstacles before reaching her goal.

As children, we've all been shown how to make the shadow of a dog's head or a cockatoo on the wall. Much of Shadowland is built from this simple trick of light and shadow, but taken to a whole other level, obviously. The things the Shadowland crew do with the shadows of the dancers' bodies is quite magical. You and your inner child will become besties again.

The dreamlike sequences of visual trickery are interspersed with the raw physicality and beauty of the dance troop under 'natural' theatre light. I haven't seen a dance performance for quite a while and I don't know why that is. Such grace, such strength, such impressive teamwork... it's a beautiful thing to behold. The balance of seeing the dancers (and their enjoyment of what they are doing) and the shadow and light trickery is deft. It breaks things up. Each serves to remind us of just how clever the whole thing is.

And usually I hate encores... seriously, you took several group bows – has the show finished or not?

Happy to say that this encore was a good one. Again, so fun. A nod to Pilobolus' roots with the stirring New York by Alicia Keys followed by a nod to their temporary host town of Melbourne to the wonderful lyrics and musicianship of Colin Hay's' Downunder (unfortunately, this song also fills with me with sadness given the repugnant activities of those soulless copyright parasites who now basically own the rights to a creative piece they had nothing to do with. Lawyers... worse than bad encores by a long way... but I digress).

So yes, it was a joyous encore. Look forward to Shadowland, Sydney and Brisbane. It's SO fun.


The Australian Tour 2016

Melbourne Arts Centre Melbourne, State Theatre from August 11, 2016
Frankston Frankston Arts Centre August 16, 2016
Geelong GPAC Playhouse August 19, 2016
Horsham Horsham Town Hall August 20, 2016
Bendigo Ulumbarra Theatre August 21, 2016
Brisbane QPAC, Playhouse Theatre from August 23, 2016
Canberra Canberra Theatre from August 30, 2016
Sydney  State Theatre from September 1, 2016
Adelaide  Her Majesty’s Theatre from September 6, 2016

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