Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

25/02/2015 - 27/02/2015

Auckland Fringe 2015

Production Details

Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!
– Lewis Carroll (excerpt from The Jabberwocky

Jabber is a triple bill production choreographed by Gracie Pilgrem, Vivian Hosking-Aue and Chloe Baynes, drawing on Lewis Carroll’s famous nonsensical poem The Jabberwocky. Three 15 minute choreographic works each animate a Jabberwocky found in our own lives as we all stand by the Tulgey Trees. Consumerism, translation, confusion, debauchery and fantasy are explored in a whimsically macabre interpretation of the infamous beast. Comic but unsettling, Jabber will brand a vivid and distinct imprint on your moving mind. We all seek the Jabberwocky, but will we be ready when it finds us?

Original sound score composed by Thomas Stoneman.

The Basement, 25-27 Feb @ 5.30pm

50 mins


50 mins

Confidently performed triple bill

Review by Paul Young 26th Feb 2015

Jabber is a triple bill production choreographed by Auckland University students Gracie Pilgrem, Vivian Hosking-Aue and Chloe Baynes in collaboration with the dancers, with an original score by Thompston whose dramatic electronic soundscape supports the program throughout. The bass-heavy accompaniment to the first lighting fade out is an event in itself. 

Choreographic practice that utilises text and voice is now ubiquitous within New Zealand dance. Each of the choreographers attempts to deal with text in some way. Hosking-Aue integrates it with real choreographic consideration and invention. The relegation of text to a narrative bookmarks or spoken subtitle is avoided here through abstraction of the sound, layering and re-arrangement of sentence structure. At another point the audience are coerced into reading eulogies for the dancers, and the performer audience relationship is flipped.

All the pieces are beat/tempo driven and contain elements of contemporary vocabulary, gesture and state based imagery. Tropes and clichés of contemporary dance are used alternately knowingly and naively. Choreographic arrangements such as counterpoint between duet and trio, and quartets arranged in a trapezoid formation are comfortably familiar and there are examples of both generic dance moves and individual styles.

Throughout the first work, Out of the Game,  the dancers stare resolutely ahead and I wonder what they are seeing way out on the horizon. There is no tension between them, and I wonder if they are all outsiders of the mysterious game? The piece is book-ended by unembellished text of dubious relation to the action. I recognize at the end a mention of clocks and crocodiles. I’m confused. Are we dealing with Lewis Carroll or J. M. Barrie ?

Too Much Mince by Gracie Pilgrem begins with dancers in shoulder stands wearing denim shorts and boots. I entertain the idea of an inverted line dance. The dancers speak over the top of each other to create texture but it isn’t worked to quite the degree it needs to not seem superficial. The struggle with The Basement Theatre is that it is horizontally wide but shallow and makes spatial design a challenge if it isn’t fully embraced and considered. I would suggest that in a space with no wings, exits to the side of the stage should be redundant. I don’t know at which point it is brought on stage but the work ends with the dancers rubbing raw mince into their faces. The dance had previously seemed primarily about patterns, familiar abstract dance vocabulary and athleticism, so maybe any mince in this work is too much mince. It is a conceptual leap off the edge of logic for me.

Raw meat aside, the dancers are focused, confident and generous in their commitment to delivering the work. The Basement has a concrete floor, the least forgiving of surfaces.

On a general note, reference to a concept is not equal to rigorous choreographic exploration of a concept, and so one’s program notes should tread carefully should one’s content not fulfill one’s premise.

The overall reference to nonsense poem Jabberwocky written by Lewis Carroll in 1871 seems fairly superficial as the choreographers employ the concept of a Jabberwock as a metaphor which covers ideas such as being out of the game (no definition of game), consumerism and the evils of the meat and shoe industry, and ideologies the afterlife, respectively.

Out of the three works, only Vivian Hosking-Aue begins to let go of full frontal facing as being of primary concern, and his offering The Wounds of JC marks a mighty leap forward in cohesion, embodiment, vocabulary and maturity. Hosking-Aue is championed by many as an emerging talent to watch, and is obviously a keen and studious observer of current contemporary choreographic practice. The relationships between the dancers are strong and multi dimensional, adding the necessary frisson to connections, both physical and spatial. There are elements of the work in which I can see the influence of choreographer Sarah Foster, yet Hosking-Aue is clearly moving in his own direction. A duet between two men is a pure pleasure as they shake ripple and undulate contrapuntally in and out of unison. Visceral, classy and real !

Humor and self-deprecation are fair game and the all performers are warm relaxed and appropriate, delivering competently in a variety of modalities. Aloalii Tapu can’t help but charm in his open and spontaneous-seeming address to the audience. Did he forget his lines? Does it matter?

Jabber is a polished and confidently delivered selection of dance theatre by emerging choreographers who are still learning to resolve the relationship between form and content (or form as content) in order to make a cohesive choreographic statement. A mixed bill, but worth supporting.


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