Photos – Laurent Philippe
My review request for Pixel went something like this:
“Hey Australian Stage – I'd really like to review this. It looks so trippy that I might not need to take any pre-show acid like I usually do.
Hahaha - joking. This show looks so trippy that it's SCREAMING for pre-show acid.
Joking again. My pre-show drug of choice is actually ecstasy.”
Although in reality my pre-show drug of choice is a glass of chardonnay, there were moments during the show that I felt like I had taken a delicious cocktail containing all of the above. There are many moments of wonderful trippiness.
First up though – the dance element of the show. Breakdance and body-popping are dance styles I've only ever been exposed to via short music clips. It's always seemed a novelty, a slightly freaky gimmick with a backdrop of jerky, thumping, shouty music.
But this is a full-blown, intricately choreographed dance performance showing these forms of dance in (for this writer) a whole new light. The dance in Pixel is real and pure dance; there is nothing gimicky about this performance. It's masculine, it's tricky, there is showmanship, there is strength and finesse... you've seen the head spins and the arm spins and the angular weirdness before, but not on this level. It's break-dancing, Jim, but not as we know it.
So what's different about it? Because the performance is longer than the music clips you might have been exposed to, you have the chance to appreciate the skill involved. Once you get used to it, you see it for having all the beauty of the best ballet.
You might see the word 'breakdance' and associate it with shitty 80s electro synth and drum pads, but here the music by Armand Amar is just dreamy. By turns orchestral, exciting, melancholic, whimsical... if there wasn't such magic going on up there onstage, you could easily close your eyes and drift of into the lushness of the music.
But the magic going on up there onstage... whoa.
Aside from the dance (I forgot to mention that there was the most amazing contortionist who at one stage did a duet with one of the break boys and it was one of the most wonderfully weird and playful modern dance sequences I have had the pleasure of seeing), there was the lighting trickery. This is where the trippiness comes into the thing. You will find yourself wondering what the hell is going on. Obviously it's all technology, but it may as well be magic. They somehow project light onto a... a sheet of magic and the performers interact with the light by... magic so that there's a kind of interactive dance between the dancers and the pixels of light. There are 3d effects that can only be described as... magic.
And it's all happening right there in real life in front of you.
I actually don't know how they achieved some of the visual effects that I saw. But I did love the marriage between technology (or magic, as I like to call it) and the raw and elegant physicality of the human body.
All performers had their moments to shine. Even the roller skate guy and the hoop guy, both of whom I also forgot to mention. Such masculine elegance.
Artistic director, choreographer and all round magician Mourad Merzouki and his collaborators have produced the kind of performance that makes you think, if shows like this are being made now, what are they going to be doing in a few years' time?
Vass Productions and Centre Chorégraphique National de Créteil et du Val-de-Marne / Compagnie Käfig present
Directed by Mourad Merzouki
Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre | 219 Exhibition Street Melbourne Vic
Dates: 31 August - 4 September 2016