|Tammi Gissell and Liz Lea in "Seeking Biloela"|
Directed by Liz Lea
The Street Theatre – Made in Canberra
October 26th and 27th.
Reviewed by Bill Stephens
Prolific dance maker Liz Lea continues her fascination with birds and flight with this latest work “Seeking Biloela”, which consists of two dance solos, both ostensibly concerned with birds, one trapped, and the other endangered.
“Magnificus Magnificus” is the most successful and accessible of the two. Strikingly performed by indigenous dancer, Tammi Gissell, this work concerns the plight of the red tailed black cockatoo, but it also echoes the life of the dancer. During the course of the work we learn a great deal about the red tailed black cockatoo, its habitat and habits. We also learn a lot about Tammi Gissell, a stunning dancer, who addresses the audience directly and disarmingly about the habits and nature of the cockatoo, and the bush turkey, and how both relate to her own life and experiences as a cabaret showgirl.
Along the way Gissell transforms into both birds, performs an impressive routine on roller-skates, then executes her finale resplendent in high heels, a towering red and black feathered headdress and showgirl feathers. This spell-binding tour-de-force is accompanied by an evocative soundscape composed by Adam Ventura, Eric Avery, and Graham Davis King, and performed live by the latter two composers.
More complex but less satisfying is Liz Lea’s own solo,”Kapture”, which opens the program. Attempting to interpret the writings of activist Ahmed Kathrada through his favourite Hindi song about a trapped bird, Lea incorporates classical Indian dance as part of her choreographic vocabulary. Excerpts from Kathrada’s writings are heard as a voice-over delivered to the accompaniment of an atmospheric soundscape featuring tabla player Bobby Singh and performed within Christiane Novak’s metallic installation.
While often visually interesting, the dance vocabulary soon becomes limiting and repetitive, and the relationship between movement and theme is often difficult to comprehend. An ambitious work, “Kapture” suffers from a surfeit of big ideas which diffuse the focus and prevent it from achieving the impact it initially promises.