Safety in Numbers and Dining [Uns]-table

Last night I was buggered, finished work and made my way to Parramatta Riverside. Fell asleep, mouth agog, only to wake in a momentary state of total disorientation, just in time to alight from the train, followed by a quick costume change and a hot shot of coffee.

This was not a good sign.

But the buzz of opening night, the anticipation, the shop talk amongst peers, coupled with the caffeine, started to work its magic.

I honestly can’t remember the last time I went to a performance where  time moved so quickly I thought I was gypped.

From the opening scene to closing, I sat on the edge of my seat. This work was crafted that well.

What started as an innocuous office party, soon escalated into total devastation, initially played out in darkness to the visceral rumble of subwoofers in overdrive.

When the lights came up we saw tectonic plates pushing along a fault line, a huge mass of energy, foreboding certain destruction.

What we subsequently heard were the aftershocks, peppered with the sound of a distant whistle, symbolising hope and rescue just within reach, yet elusive to the surviving revellers.

Director Samantha Chester’s Safety in Numbers, presented by FORM as part of their Dance Bites program, managed to create/represent both a microcosmic bubble packed with intimacy; the back story told by Simon Corfield through spoken text of commonplace statistics chronicling the history of a marriage, the shifting logic of survival portrayed through the repetition of a mundane weekly schedule by Danielle Micich, all within an epic event made all the more poignant by encapsulating both absurdity and horror, when  described through the words of a much loved golden book favourite by Gavin James Clarke.

The performers are a rare breed, able to move and speak with the authenticity of the pedestrian while simultaneously sharing the high precision and athleticism from years of training in dance. It is a rare duality of performative textures/modes helping to imbue the work with moments of profundity.

David Fleischer’s set was simple and effective, bottle green plastic chairs doubling as moving earth and utalitarian office accoutrements, several fans blowing rubble dust (via smoke machine) and rubbish. Verity Hampson’s lighting was generally small and focused as if peaking through fissures in broken architecture.

This work has enjoyed a healthy gestation period, beginning as an idea fostered through company Force Majeure’s inaugural Cultivate and Culminate programs, created to help consolidate the careers of emerging choreographers. Sam Chester is its proven success. This work has the hallmark feel of a Force Majeure work, melding many performative disciplines, while simultaneously covering the intimate and epic human condition.

This work had me thinking of Cloé Fournier’s work I attended last week; Dining [Uns]-Table. She too was working across disciplines to tackle well trodden themes telling her specific, yet global story about her relentless endeavour to please and fix the broken human psyche.

Her set was simple, with commonplace furniture  arranged and rearranged throughout the piece, to serve as different social settings chronicling a life. Her life with her family- with her father under scrutiny.

Before we entered we were allocated name tags. I was Nanna. Some relatives were penned in English, some in her native French. We sat in correlation to our names sakes in spatial relativity to our proximity on the family tree.

Certain situations were emphasised, replicated, enhanced and distorted through projected live video feeds, lighting and sound by Imogen Cranna. Coupled with our incidental involvement, this made the work seem busy and close.

The movement too gave the false impression of being pedestrian, beginning with her body, stiff yet supine, on two chairs, precariously suspended aloft a large white folding table, gaffer taped underneath for support. She slid and fell on all fours, on plastic plates, donned a jumper of knives and forks and balanced hot tea on her body, before making her ultimate sacrifice.

I salute her courage in self production, securing a spot as part of the Freshworks season at the Old 505 Theatre. The first dance work to do so.

I couldn’t help but think that both Cloe and Imogen (who is also a dancer and emerging choreographic voice) would also thrive under the guidance of Force Majeure’s much needed initiative. Good on you Kate Champion!

Safety in Numbers runs until this Saturday the 12th of April. It’s well worth a mere 20 minute train trip from the city.

– by Vicki Van Hout