Sunday, January 26, 2014

Arc, Memento Mori & Every Action… by Ockham’s Razor

Photos: Nik Mackey

Arc, Memento Mori & Every Action… devised and performed by Ockham’s Razor (UK).  Sydney Festival at York Theatre, Seymour Centre, University of Sydney, January 9-26, 2014.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
January 25

 Photos: Prudence Upton

When a show depends on pulleys and fulcrums you might expect a science connection.  That’s made in this company’s name, Ockham’s Razor, and the remarkable skill they have for keeping their audience in suspension.

But don’t be taken in by the photos.  Each of the three items is much more than aerial gymnastics.

Even the lightest work, Every Action…, with its premiere (in 2005) having taken place at Ah! Les Beaux Jours, Palaiseau, France, is a fun work about how strangers can come together in enjoyment when something intriguing is in the offing.  In this case it is 25 metres of rope suspended through two separated pulleys.  Pull one end down, and the other goes up.  How simple!

But William of Ockham would be proud: keep your explanation simple – no more complex than it needs to be.  This principle keeps this company’s work clean, neat, accessible, poignant and pointed.

Memento Mori is a vertical dance duet.  Based on a woodcut by Holbein which shows Death as a “skeleton that dances each of us to our grave”, this work shows a young woman coming to terms with the shock and loss, finally reaching acceptance.  At first she sits bolt upright on the horizontal deathly pale male body, as if in surprise or in an attempt to say “It’s alright, I’m OK, I’m in control.”  But as the dance of the living and the dead develops, she goes through remorse, fear, guilt, love and in the end becomes horizontal herself in acceptance of the inevitable.

To watch all this created on a single trapeze is to see physical skill and art entwined in a way which could not be done on a flat dance floor.

This may be the most pure and simple work, but Arc is perhaps the most surprising and original.  What seems to be a raft, in at times stormy seas, is always at risk of failing to support the two women and the man clinging on for dear life.

As they face disaster, their relationships go through stages from childish unthinking spontaneous behaviours which inevitably have unintended consequences – causing friction, disappointment, anger, disdain and division – until the realisation dawns that their situation will not change, even as they have survived the storm.  There is no solution but to make the best of things together on our raft on the rough seas of life.

Arc is a dance work but, set on its hanging grid of climbing bars, it becomes a work of imagery.  I saw a raft swept off a ship in stormy seas, but it could be seen as a children’s playground on which the children play until they grow up, into a mature understanding of adult relationships.

Arc may be more complex than Every Action…and not as pure dance as Memento Mori, but it remains in keeping with William of Ockham’s injunction: no more complex than it need be.

And, for the Sydney Festival, it proved its worth to a full York Theatre, from the children to the ancients like me.  The laughter, the silences, and the extended applause said it all.

Photo: Prudence Upton