Friday, August 18, 2017

Blue Love

Photo: Simon Wachter
Blue Love at Canberra Theatre Centre Playhouse, August 16-17, 2017.

Director/Writer/Designer/Choreographer: Shaun Parker
Original Direction by Shaun Parker & Jo Stone
Dramaturg: Kate Champion (Founding Artistic Director of Force Majeure)
Performed by Shaun Parker, Lucia Mastrantone & Jo Stone

Reviewed by Frank McKone
August 17

When a show so cleverly satirises the criticism of art, what am I to write in response?  Can I just say, “Well done!” and be done with it?  Or better, “Extremely well done!!!”

Maybe a little verbal dancing will save my critical bacon.  The great writer on criticism, the poet TS Eliot, pointed out that “There are several forms which criticism might take; there is always a large proportion of criticism which is retrograde or irrelevant; there are always many writers who are qualified neither by knowledge of the past nor by awareness of the sensibility and the problems of the present.”

Am I so qualified?  I can’t dance like Glenn and Rhonda Flune.  Or sing mediaeval French folk songs like them.  With a bit of redevelopment of ancient experience, I might be able to act a bit like them, and fool my audience into not being sure if they are fictional or real.

I’m pretty sure I can’t write like Shaun Parker, even with the help of such a spot-on dramaturg as dance-drama expert Kate Champion.  My imagination is just not so wonderful.  I think I should accept Samuel Beckett’s criticism:

VLADIMIR: Abortion!
ESTRAGON: Morpion!
VLADIMIR: Sewer-rat!
ESTRAGON: (with finality). Crritic!
He wilts, vanquished, and turns away.”

But maybe that’s just my being qualified by knowledge of a past sensibility – 1960’s absurdism.  In modern times, Blue Love is remarkably original.  Yet I was reminded that it does have antecedents by the flyer, perhaps ironically left on my seat. 

“An acrobatic exploration of the place we call home.”  “Thought provoking...heart stopping.”  “The finest piece of circus I’ve ever seen.”  To which I would add, “The funniest piece of theatre I have seen for a very long time.”  But wait.  These paeans of praise are about Landscape with Monsters (not the ‘funniest’ bit), the show by Circa at the Canberra Theatre on 6-9 September.  Did the front-of-house staff realise these words are as true of Blue Love as we hope they will be of Landscape with Monsters.

And I’m sure I saw a line of history back to the original Circus Oz.  Shaun Parker’s sense of humour is wild in that same vein.

‘Home’ in Blue Love is Rhonda and Glenn’s home, which includes all of us visitors, welcomed with snacks and beers.  We are entertained by them for an hour or so, as they tell us the story of how they met, fell in love, married, bought their house, lost their first child, had two more.  We never quite get to the Darby and Joan stage, as ‘lurv’ seems to fall apart while we watch their home movies and listen to a startling sound mix of lines from just about every recorded love song of the past hundred years.  Even TS Eliot when writing the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock in 1917 might have been thinking ahead to Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (even apparently under water in Blue Love).

To describe Shaun and Lucia’s choreography in words is impossible.  A Youtube virtual reality headset would be the only way.  As Eliot said about poetry: “It is not always true that a person who knows a good poem when he sees it can tell us why it is a good poem.  The experience of poetry, like any other experience, is only partially translatable into words."

So that’s it.  Good theatre can’t be translated into words.  You have to see it to believe it. Blue Love is an experience you should definitely not miss.  Because you will love it.