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NOTHING-NESS

Print Version
The Nothing
Directed by Sarah Foster-Sproull and Andrew Foster
Music by Eden Mulholland

at Shed 6, Queens Wharf, Wellington
From 11 Oct 2012 to 13 Oct 2012
[1 hour]

Reviewed by Virginia Kennard, 12 Oct 2012


Very much a work under development, The Nothing is split in two with respect to choreographic construction. The first ‘half' has a crafted flow, encompassing an entrance procession, text through a foghorn, and segues into choreographed sequences – a succession of solos, duets, unison movement, but with no real depth.

Relationships occasionally reveal attempts to cling to someone, anything, nothing. Rebecca Bassett-Graham's anxiety-ridden woman has clear emotional resonance and Craig Bary quietly freaking out on the floor with gestures around the throat are chilling and engaging.

Bary and Josh Thompson execute movement with immaculate skill, though their stage presence looks contrived - more performative direction needed possibly? In the absence of discernible character, the movement vocabulary takes the focus, dance sequences that could be class exercises, even though obsessed with the frontal plane and the right side of the body.

Shed 6 gives depth and scope for a potential 270° of performance. A raised central stage has vast back space that performers use when off-stage/at rest,  plus room at the sides. Jen Lal's simple, superb diagonal lighting highlights the physicality and dynamics of the movement and the space, revealing spatial possibilities and alternative angles not yet explored by the choreography.

The second ‘half' is a more disparate collection of vignettes, entertaining in its randomness.  The anxious woman uses her track pants to give herself a wedgie and experiments with different ways to wank, including a penis made of her T-shirt. The strange creature who sexually harasses her; Foster-Sproull with insect-like physicality. Bary's menacing presence shining a light on the anxious woman then making a talking vagina out of his hands; a Contact duet between Foster-Sproull and Bary. Foster-Sproull's hair is pulled away and tangled up and made into a maypole, which could be a whole piece in itself. Yet more sequences referencing earlier masturbatory actions.

Eden Mulholland's sound track swings from super bass-y, to guitar driven loud right round to choral chanting that is eerie and creepy. Almost unnoticeable in the first half, it comes to the forefront in the second as it highlights the clear shifts between movement ideas without ever overriding the dance at hand.

The work ‘ends' as it begins, with the bottomless stares of the performers. Though it is not actually the ending, not even an enjoyably awkward “has it finished yet?” moment. Foster-Sproull adds footnotes. And then finally, finally, something that draws me in. The clipped speech of the beginning returns, online chatting through a foghorn. A desperate duet between Foster-Sproull and Thompson culminates in a precarious balance as she walks her feet slowly over his prone body. He struggles to drag himself across the floor and sit up with her burden.  She ends standing on his chest, on top of his heart…

How should I view this work? I can respond, react, allow myself to become enveloped in the nothing-ness, or I can learn from what I experience. As a choreographer, my default is a desire to learn, and ultimately I prefer to do so. I recognise that Sarah Foster-Sproull knows how to choreograph more than class exercises. That she may still be working through the angst of a quarter-life crisis. That using a dream team of dancers does not mean that they will necessarily be interesting to watch in performance. That maybe this work really is about ‘Nothing' and I should stop desperately trying to assign meaning to it.


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