Te Auaha, Tapere Nui, 65 Dixon Street, Te Aro, Wellington

20/03/2019 - 23/03/2019

NZ Fringe Festival 2019

Production Details

Muscle Mouth


In a futuristic landscape of isolated rooms and transfer pods, two humans meet. Performed by Ross McCormack and Luke Hanna, System takes place in a room given life and power through a rich collaboration of precision-led choreography, intelligent lighting, and a highly detailed sonic and audio-visual landscape.

“…[like] a live episode of Black Mirror, sprinkled with a hint of psychedelic warmth and wry humour“, audience member, Auckland, October 2018

System is created by Muscle Mouth, one of New Zealand’s leading next generation dance companies. The company has recently toured to South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore. Commentators consistently note the company’s fresh, visionary performances and how the company powerfully integrates all aspects of performance design into their work.

  1. Friday 22 March

    8:00 PM

    Duration 55 minutes

    Price General Admission $25.00Concession $18.00 Fringe Addict $17.00

    Tapere Nui at Te Auaha, 65 Dixon Street, Wellington

    Book Now

    Wheelchair access available

  2. Saturday 23 March

    8:00 PM

    Duration 55 minutes

    Price General Admission $25.00Concession $18.00 Fringe Addict $17.00

    Tapere Nui at Te Auaha, 65 Dixon Street, Wellington

    Book Now

    Wheelchair access available

Director and Set Designer: Ross McCormack

Performers: Ross McCormack, Luke Hanna

Choreography created by: Ross McCormack and Luke Hanna, with devising support by Jeremy Beck

Sound and A.V. Designer and Operator: Jason Wright

Light Designer and Operator: Natasha James

Dramaturgy: Melanie Hamilton

Production Manager: Natasha James

Producer: Melanie Hamilton


Multi-discipline , Dance , Contemporary dance ,

1 hour

Life changing

Review by Deirdre Tarrant 22nd Mar 2019

At a time when the global world is looking at New Zealand and the country is unified by compassion, a full house breathes in a black, confined space confronted by two walls of a utilitarian room. Suddenly we are forced to look inward and at ourselves.

This comes at a poignant time as gun laws are set to change and maybe tensions will lift a little? Not for this hour as System takes on myriad restless meanings. 

A sonic hit transports us and fast flashing lights take us abruptly out of ourselves to a curious and ultimately dystopian place – I think I held my breath for an hour and the tension of System was exhausting and very real.

A solo figure stands at the apex of the room, turns and robotically makes his way into the space, outlining in his discovery, a blindness, as the angles of a bed, desk and stool cause him to alter his path. Cause and effect drive the world, this work and its theatrical and choreographic vocabulary. Two figures shadow, conform, conflict  — and as their relationship develops there is sometimes observing, sometimes competition, sometimes camaraderie, but it is always unsettling and always there feels to be a hidden hand at work.

Is this our humanoid world of systems,  rules, control and obeisance? Is it what we fear? Who we are? Where we are going? Is this the distant future? Or is it right now and needing to be addressed? Right now?

The tension is palpable in both the bodies onstage and in the audience.

There are snapshot effects, an ominous white light box, shadows from shadows that recall scary hand monsters made on the bedroom wall – are we in a bedroom?  There is a bed,but…. ?  

Lighting by Natasha James is integral to the work and compels us to engage. Her genius makes it impossible to turn away. An insistent and incredible sound score by Jason Wright physically drives our cerebral involvement and cannot be ignored.

The two figures/robotic beings/ humans/ people are Creator Ross McCormack and his doppelgänger Luke Hanna. They reach, twine, touch, wrestle, burden, dismiss and constantly redefine each other.  The sensation of double-vision blurs our perception as they struggle, manipulate, capitulate, collide and suddenly engage in wry fleeting moments of humour in a man-to-man conversation we cannot share yet totally understand. There is a driving rhythm (heart beat) underlying all and this energy finally breaks through in a manic dance sequence of systems all ‘go’. McCormack at his most amazing. There are Super Heroes and a tilt to Aztec and Greek mythology, comic strip art and a kaleidoscopic Star Trek colour shaft – images suggest interpretations but pass by and the focus is pulled into the closely contained room and to the relationship between the figures and the effects. 

Obsessive compulsive in its attention to minutiae in every body joint and muscle, System ends with a staccato, gestural, possessive duet – are all things equal? The pulse stops.  Our lives are changed .

This is what dance does and the audience exits on a buzz of talk and the sound of breathing.  We survive to return to a glorious Wellington evening but thinking-thinking-thinking…..

System just might help us access our own national ‘cause and effect’ in this time of a call to action. A must see.


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