New Zealand theatre reviews, performace reviews and performing arts directory



PALLET PAVILLION PREMIERE PERFORMANCE

Print Version
Violent Baby - realtime composition music and dance
Kristian Larsen, Julia Milsom, Rory Dalley, Chris Reddington and Emma Johnston.

at The Pallet Pavillion, Christchurch
2 Feb 2013
[1 hr]

Reviewed by Toby Behan, 3 Feb 2013


The Pallet Pavilion is an interesting venue, very much in the style of contemporary Christchurch. Around the city these days, a number of small businesses have visually blended into their ‘under-construction' surroundings to ingenious effect, in order to provide a variety of services to the people of the town. The Pallet Pavilion is much as the name sounds - a space enclosed on all four sides by high walls constructed from pallet boxes, with furniture (by way of tables and chairs in the form of pallet benches and plastic boxes) scattered within. Add in a few caravans just outside the pavilion with food and beverages, and you have a unique space that feels and acts like a haven where those weary of the constant construction work around the city can escape for a short while.

With such spaces around the city becoming available, it is wonderful to see live performance being introduced to some of these venues, and the Pallet Pavilion hosted its first performance event   last night with Violent Baby  - advertised as an ‘…unapologetically heady mix of contemporary dance, electronic sound and voice…' which would ‘…twist genres of performance through a bizarre physicality and push ideas through the machinery of now

A  talented team of artists with strong local reputations joined forces for this event.  Dance artists Julia Milsom and Kristian Larsen worked alongside musical collaborators Chris Reddington, Rory Dalley and Emma Johnston.. The majority of the performance took place on a stage constructed toward the ‘front' of the courtyard-like space, although the artists frequently stationed themselves near one of a series of wall-hung gongs used  as sources of sound.

Kristian Larsen opened the performance with a solo showing remarkable control and fluidity of motion, at times resembling a style that hinted at elements of breakdancing – certainly a contemporary style. Dressed in clothes that were similar to those of the gathered audience, it was easy to relate to his performance and we began to be drawn in. Julia Milsom joined him onstage shortly afterward in her own solo – with a different aesthetic (more leaps, elongated sequences and breadth) and also demonstrating superb control, focus and technique. These two performers are both dance artists of an extremely high calibre, and a joy to watch.

The dancers were followed by Chris Reddington (one of the musical collaborators with a very strong stage presence – also seen onstage with Milsom's most recent work for the Body Festival Minutes of Silence). Reddington took to the stage with a gong, and a box-device of some kind, and provided approximately seven minutes of experimental music (which some might fairly describe as ‘noise'). Unlike the musical components from Minutes of Silence however, this musical sequence seemed devoid of any apparent structure, appeal or engagement.

The theme of ‘baby' did appear to be common – both in dialogue, vocal sequences (it would be unfair to call it ‘singing'), and in use of a hanging microphone which doubled as a toy hanging over a cot. Even  some of the dance sequences involved the performers seeming to regress to the age of an infant.

At times, the word ‘baby' was sung multiple times – bizarrely reminiscent of  the pop song by Justin Bieber, so perhaps the performers were in some way taking a shot at the meaningless lyrics churned out by that artist, and the shallow (almost non-existent) relationship between his ‘art' and a more meaningful reality. Silly Justin.

When three performers huddled close together on stage, making baby noises into a microphone and whispering unintelligible sounds, with the ever-present gongs bonging in the background, the people from  three tables at the rear of the pavilion simply got up and left the performance.

The performance was billed as being made up of ‘some of the finest experimental performance talents in the country'. The” talent” was certainly there, but the intent of their experiment was difficult to discern – there wasn't anything in particular to engage with – few clues provided by content, little coherence in structure or flow to the soundscape, no obvious connections between individual performances. It wasn't even clear to me whether the lack of engagement with the audience should be seen as a success, or a failure?

There is clearly a place for pushing the boundaries of contemporary performance, but there is no point pushing an art-form forward if the audience cannot engage with the work.

[This reviewer allows, of course, for the possibility that it all simply went over his head. ]

_______________________________
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.




Comments

Simon Taylor posted 4 Feb 2013, 07:28 AM
 

Dear Reviewer,

even given the parenthetical, is there any place for such patently absurd statements as the folloing being given as a general principle?

"There is clearly a place for pushing the boundaries of contemporary performance, but there is no point pushing an art-form forward if the audience cannot engage with the work.

"[This reviewer allows, of course, for the possibility that it all simply went over his head. ]"

If the reviewer concedes that the art-form was indeed "pushed forward" then surely that is the point. Or since so much space in the review is given to conveying a sense of place, does the reviewer mean that there may be a place for pushing the boundaries of contemporary performance, but it is not here, in front of this reviewer?

What is this person doing reviewing?

Best,

Simon Taylor

www.squarewhiteworld.com

Sam Jackson posted 4 Feb 2013, 11:08 AM
 

Pushing forward is not necessarily positive. Consider the lemming. 

Simon Taylor posted 4 Feb 2013, 12:55 PM
 

Sam,

I am.

Toby Behan posted 5 Feb 2013, 09:44 AM
 

Thanks for your comment Simon - it's always good to know if my words have been unclear. To clarify, I was not saying that the art form had been pushed forward in this particular instance. 

I certainly would not claim that any words I write should even be *considered* as 'a general principle' either, please forgive me if it sounded as though I was trying to establish such a principle. It is merely my opinion, which I am happy to justify if required. I do apologize for any wording I used that led you to think that pushing boundaries is acceptable as long as it is not in front of me :)

Simon Taylor posted 6 Feb 2013, 03:20 PM
 

Toby, my pleasure. No, I lie.

A critic's standards may indeed be personal but as a general principle of criticism I suggest that the critic ought not be able to squirm out of his or her responsibility to the public and the art form by saying he or she is merely giving a personal opinion.

Best,

Simon

www.squarewhiteworld.com

Sam Jackson posted 6 Feb 2013, 03:53 PM
 

Simon, performance involves living, breathing, individual persons be they giving or receiving. No performer can avoid bringing something of their personal perspective to their work. Likewise a critic. To pretend otherwise would be dishonest.

Toby Behan posted 6 Feb 2013, 04:35 PM
 

No need to say it's a pleasure if that isn't true Simon :)

Again, thanks for your comment - saying that reviewers should not be able to squirm out of responsibility by stating that they are giving a personal opinion. 

I'm just struggling to think of any reviewer, anywhere, who has ever offered a review that was *not* their personal opinion? Given that 100% of reviews *are* personal opinion, how can a reviewer squirm out of responsibility simply by admitting what is patently, always true? 

If every single review is a personal opinion (which it is) - then I can't possibly have been attempting to squirm out of anything. When I admit that what I write is a personal opinion, I'm simply admitting what is true for all reviews - everywhere. No more - no less. 

Simon Taylor posted 6 Feb 2013, 06:07 PM
 

Don't be ridiculous: that this is "admitting what is true for all reviews - everywhere. No more - no less." is merely a personal opinion which you now set down as a general principle.


best,

Simon Taylor

www.squarewhiteworld.com

Simon Taylor posted 6 Feb 2013, 06:09 PM
 

Sam,

"performance involves living, breathing, individual persons be they giving or receiving" - consider the lemming.

Toby Behan posted 6 Feb 2013, 09:15 PM
 

Out of curiousity Simon - what did you think of the performance?

Simon Taylor posted 6 Feb 2013, 09:17 PM
 

I thought it was wonderful.

Simon Taylor posted 8 Feb 2013, 12:24 PM
 

I suspect my meaning is this:

Please leave yourself behind next time you go and see a show.

To come away having seen a piece of work with only your personal opinion is a double failure.

The work has not been good enough to produce anything new in you.

You have not been good enough to produce anything new in your review of it, in your writing.

It is the second failure, which is yours, that you play out in public as a critic:

On the one hand, you have a bad show and bad art, because making art is the artist's job; on the other, you have a reviewer who is not up to the job, which is writing.

The horrible part is that the failure of the review to live up to its responsibility as a piece of writing and go beyond personal opinion affects the reception of the art whether the work is good or bad.

For the critic to say he or she is merely giving a personal opinion is an abrogation of responsibility and an abuse both of the privilege afforded by the public role of critic and of the art work the critic is meant to serve.

Toby Behan posted 8 Feb 2013, 01:52 PM / edited 8 Feb 2013, 01:53 PM
 

Well thanks for submitting your own opinion Simon - it's an interesting read :) - I appreciate the thoughts. 

John Smythe posted 8 Feb 2013, 03:46 PM
 

Simon, I cannot sit by and allow you to vilify a conscientious, perceptive and articulate critic without comment. You seem to expect critics to be demi-gods dispensing incontrovertible truths from on high.

Sorry mate – we're human and therefore fallible. Thus, in all conscience, despite bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience to our work, we admit to our learning being limited by our lifetimes and our perceptions being filtered through our own personal brains because that is all we have to work with.

I don't know what your subjective agenda is here, Simon, but your astonishingly nasty PERSONAL OPINION, which can in no way be seen as an objective review of the reviewer, does not sit well on this site. 

Simon Taylor posted 8 Feb 2013, 04:29 PM
 

that's an awful lot of sitting, John. I wonder if Toby needs or has asked for a sitter? to take a stand for him, his reputation, honour and the good name of this site?

nik smythe posted 15 Feb 2013, 01:48 PM
 

I can't believe this requires clarification, but as a reviewer I have no impression to share apart from my own.  I can, and often do, consider other potential points of view (as Toby is also clearly willing to do), but I can still only consider potential views I am aware of. 

Thus, there is no such thing as a truly objective review; To suggest a subjective review is somehow irresponsible is an insult to the intelligence and autonomy of our readership.  I have faith in the general audience understanding this fact, and further expect them to have a sense of self-worth enough to form their own opinion in response to mine.  And I'm happy for anyone to respond with ideas or information that might affect my point of view. 

I'm entirely less interested in people gratifying their egos at anyone's expense via malicious trolling.

Simon Taylor posted 16 Feb 2013, 11:20 AM / edited 16 Feb 2013, 12:00 AM
 

I can't believe this requires clarification,
... but believe sufficiently to assay it.

but as a reviewer I have no impression to share apart from my own.  

... it is a poor thing when held up to public scrutiny or set beside the work I am reviewing. Is it adequate?

I can, and often do, consider other potential points of view (as Toby is also clearly willing to do), but I can still only consider potential views I am aware of. 

... and thereby either generalise in the pretense of adequacy and in the name of common sense or dilute and palliate on the presumption of inadequacy, and, with my own good faith intact and for the public good, squirm out of any responsibility that there were other views of which I ought to have been aware, but could not have been beause I am not and, well, they only potentially are.

Thus, there is no such thing as a truly objective review;

... which this truly objective statement establishes beyond doubt.

To suggest a subjective review is somehow irresponsible is an insult to the intelligence and autonomy of our readership. 
... whom I call on now to bear witness to my presumption to speak on their behalf.

I have faith in the general audience understanding this fact, and further expect them to have a sense of self-worth enough to form their own opinion in response to mine. 

... and I call on them now to review themselves and their own self-worth lest they be reviewed.

And I'm happy for anyone to respond with ideas or information that might affect my point of view. 

... in so far as it is my own, poor thing, a general insinuation

I'm entirely less interested in people gratifying their egos at anyone's expense via malicious trolling.

... but sufficiently interested to respond as if people were trolling and as if people were gratifiying their ego at my or any one's expense.

... I call on these people now.