A NIGHT OUT ON THE TOWN
NZ Fringe Festival 2013|
Director/choreographer: Brigid Costello<br /> Composer: Tane Upjohn-Beatson
at BATS - Out Of Site - Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington
From 8 Mar 2013 to 16 Mar 2013
Reviewed by Virginia Kennard, 10 Mar 2013
Maybe it was because I had International Women's Day on my mind. But watching five mini-skirted women dancing to house music and watered down remixes of Top 40 music, incorporating overtly sexualised gestures with their vapid smiles, was not the way I had expected to spend my Friday evening.
I had interviewed choreographer Brigid Costello prior to viewing this show, and she had talked about being motivated by examining the relationships her high school students have to top 40 music. Obviously a fantastic premise, with the potential for exploring the effect of pop culture on social interactions.
However, the show seemed to focus on a singular aspect of this theme, following a group of young women preparing and heading out for a night on the town. Their getting-ready phrases including putting on deodorant, waxing (the vulva) and spraying their hair. True 21st century creatures would have also been engrossed in their mobile phones at some point, but instead we watch the women give blowjobs to invisible men. Are they practicing or fantasizing? (The latter maybe if they are younger.)
The work may have been inspired by teenagers, but it was very unclear as to what age group the performers were presenting: 16 year olds, 19 year olds, or the mid-20s/real ages of the women performing? And whether the choreographer intended to present a literal take on the social rituals of young women, a social commentary thereon, or was heading towards a parody, was unclear.
The movement vocabulary was restricted, veering between aerobic dance and sexual gestures. The dancers ‘flossed' their vulvas, bobbed their heads a lot and did many high kicks with their right legs. Compositionally, there was lots of follow the leader and movement motifs repeated in varying sequences.
There were hints at the awkwardness of attempting to conform to a group, but also to just enjoy being one's self in a social setting. There were certainly moments of recognition - “cringe, I do that/have done that/will probably do that again when drunk” - but not enough of these for it really to engage us with what the material was trying to say.
Connection to music leaves much open to investigate.
As it is the premiere of the work and at the Fringe, I assume this was a work in progress, with material having been set aside for now in order to round out the point of this piece. Certainly there is a glimpse of irony from Melissa Phillips' angsting heartbroken character as her friends ineffectually rally to make her feel better. Her compelling stage presence and the physical energy of Gina Andrews and cool factor of Amber Kimble (despite her manic grinning or because of?) are noteworthy. As are the amazing legs of all performers, if my neighbour's responses were anything to go by.
The set, consisting of white cylindrical tubes that unravel from the ceiling to the floor, provides a great space for the dynamic lighting design by Ben Williams. It would help if the tube centre front was raised for the latter half of the performance to enable a a more adequate view of the rest of the space. These tubes also had a certain phallic air about them, made all the more disturbing when the dancers entered them in pairs. However, there is a glimmer of hope to be had in these tubes choreographically – frenetic shaking within strobe lighting transformed these tubes and the performers into something more desperate, obsessive, intriguing.
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.
See also reviews by:
Ann Hunt (The Dominion Post);