Wednesday, October 5, 2016

WIGGLE ROOM - Ralph Wilson Indie

Devised and performed by Cher Albrect, Deb Clelland, Ruth O’Brien, Alison Plevey

Ralph Wilson Theatre, Gorman Arts Centre - 28th September to 1st October

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

This collaboration between an acrobat, a stunt-woman, a dancer and a singer, was the first presentation in the inaugural season of Ralph Indie. Drawing on Sara Ahmed’s essay of the same name for inspiration, Cher Albrect, Deb Clelland, Alison Plevey and Ruth O’Brien have utilised elements of contemporary dance and aerial acrobatics to explore the political significance of how we move our bodies and occupy space. The result is a provocative work-in-progress which is at different times, puzzling, confronting, thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining.

The audience entered the Ralph Wilson theatre to discover that the seating had been removed and that the auditorium was bare except for an orange silk sculpture and two hoops strung high above the performing area. Ropes and aerial apparatus decorated the walls.

Experienced experimental theatre attendees quickly commandeered the few stools scattered around the perimeter. Those who missed out had to be content with leaning against the walls or sitting on the floor for the entire performance.
Unsettling loud banging on one of the side entrances heralded the start of the performance. The four performers burst into the room simultaneously from different entrances, wiggling and squirming grotesquely. They then began to wiggle and squirm among the audience, disconcertingly, under the legs of those seated, or claiming positions among those around the walls.  “Sometimes to make space you have to wiggle” one exclaimed, providing the key to the work.

A series of abstract episodes followed, performed with impressive skill by Cher Albrect, Deb Clelland and Alison Plevey.  Complex manoeuvres on the aerial apparatus,  whizzing around on small bicycles, creating curious shapes inside a mattress cover, walking up walls in tightly choreographed sequences, or on one occasion, climbing onto the shoulders of a colleague while wearing red stiletto’s, challenged and intrigued.
Occasionally the performers declaimed text from various sources including The Journal of Experimental Biology, Safe Work Australia, Dar Williams’ “When I Was a Boy” and Iris Marion Young’s “Throwing Like a Girl”. Other times they worked to a haunting soundtrack, created, spontaneously by Ruth O’Brien using looping technology.

Ending playfully, and on message, with an invitation from the performers, for their bemused audience to join them in making space to do something different, to explore, to have fun, or to simply contemplate, “Wiggle Room” proved an auspicious entree into the inaugural Ralph Indie.

 This review first published in the digital edition of CITY NEWS on 3rd October 2016

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