Choreographed by Liz Lea
QL2 Theatre, Gorman House
November 2nd 2015
Reviewed by Bill Stephens
Inspired by the life and experiences of South African activist and political prisoner, Ahmed Kathrada, this program of six short works, four of which were choreographed by Lea, provided a compelling evening of dance theatre.
The first two sections, “The Garden” and “Kapture”, featured Lea as both choreographer and performer, and commenced with Lea, dramatically lit and strikingly costumed, head to toe, in dazzling green and red sequins, in an artful setting by Christiane Novak decorated with fruit and vegetables.
Lea addressed the audience directly with details of Kathrada’s background and experiences. She illuminated the words with graceful eye and hand gestures, alluding to Kathrada’s Indian heritage, before gracefully shedding the sequins, chameleon-like, to reveal a simple black dress.
As details of Kathrada’s treatment and survival became starker, Lea’s comments were overlaid with recordings of Kathrada’s words, spoken by Bobby Singh, positioned to the side of the stage, who played live tabla phrases based on the prison numbers of both Kathrada and Nelson Mandela.
The combination of unexpected elements, enhanced by Lea’s own commanding, superbly realised performance sprinkled with occasional flashes of gentle humour, resulted in a mesmerising work of beauty and intelligence which imaginatively honours an extraordinary life.
After interval the program included two excellent solos which continued the theme. “Freedom”, superbly executed in the Kathak dance style by Shruti Ghosh, and “Kaught” in which Lea skilfully manipulated two black feather fans to depict the predicament of a trapped bird.
Less successful was a long piece entitled “A Witness to History”, choreographed by Lea, in which members of the mature age dance group GOLD used their own individual life stories to reflect on the period of Kathrada’s incarceration.
It was a well-meaning work which addressed the theme and made good use of projected headlines from past issues of The Canberra Times. The reason for its inclusion can be understood, but the work suffered in comparison to other sections of the program, because most of the participants haven’t yet developed the stagecraft required to convey complex themes effectively. So while there were some interesting moments, these were offset by others that were self-conscious and uncomfortable. The energetic African group “Troupe Olabisi” which ended the program, while arguably appropriate, also felt curiously out of place.
This review was published in the digital edition of "CITY NEWS" on 02.11.14