Thursday, January 12, 2012

Never Did Me Any Harm - dance theatre devised by Force Majeure

Never Did Me Any Harm dance theatre devised by Force Majeure, directed by Kate Champion. Sydney Festival and Sydney Theatre Company, Wharf 1, January 11 – February 12 2012.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
January 11

Initially stimulated by her reading of Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap, Kate Champion’s work on child rearing / parenting leaves me – a parent and grandparent – unable to suggest any advice beyond ‘Do what you can; don’t feel guilty (when you find yourself disliking your feral three-year-old); and don’t harbour any expectations that your child will turn out as you thought / hoped they might, whatever form your parenting takes’.

You might find, however, as a mother, that you are more in love with the little boy who smiles so directly at you than you ever loved any other man.

Using material from some 60 hours of interviews, and therefore quoting real people’s thoughts rather than creating purely fictional dialogue, Force Majeure have made what I suppose must be called factional dance theatre.  The result is impressive for its strength of feeling and its reversal of theatrical convention.  I have always seen movement as the core of drama, though emphasis is traditionally placed on the text.  Here Champion shows that indeed words are superficial, while action, down to the choreographed flicking of a wrist, the placing of a hand or lifting of an eyebrow, is where the depth of emotion, communication and meaning is expressed.

This is the essence of what some are now calling a new genre – dance theatre.

The great thing about a Festival is being able to see such a difference in dance theatre one night – Babel (words) – and dance theatre the next night – Never Did Me Any Harm.

Speed, rhythm, structured design, speeches one night; slow, gradual building of intensity, naturalistic mess with highly original lighting and projections,  and ordinary people’s talk the next.  Theatricality one night; drama the next.  Standing ovation with cheering one night; measured applause for three curtain calls with heightened sense of having learned from the experience the next.

Force Majeure certainly never did me any harm.  May its honest facing up to reality do all of us some good.