by Alison Plevey, Olivia Fyffe, Ryan Stone, Levi Szabo, Elizabeth Cameron
Dalman OAM and Somebody’s Aunt.
National Botanic Gardens. 5th – 14th
on 5th March reviewed by Bill Stephens.
|Alison Plevey in "Symbiosis"
only full-time professional dance company, Australian Dance Party, under the leadership
of Alison Plevey, has established an enviable reputation for creating unique
site-specific works highlighting environmental issues.
Australian National Botanic Gardens proved the perfect environment for a work
inspired by “the interaction between
different organisms living in close physical association”, and the resulting
work provides an unforgettable experience, that is never less than intriguing, often very
beautiful, and occasionally even laugh-out- loud.
|Liz Lea as Ishi Botanist
a walking tour offering the rare opportunity to experience the mysteries of the
Australian National Botanic Gardens by night, the audience willingly falls in
behind the raffish Ishi Botanist (the always intriguing Liz Lea not too heavily
disguised) a jolly fountain of knowledge who takes care of the house-keeping
announcements and points out plants of particular interest carefully annunciating
their correct (??) botanical names.
into the rain forest where the boardwalks have been transformed by tiny lights
into into a magical fairy-land, the audience armed
with hand-held lanterns became part of the environment forming a pretty lantern
procession which snaked around the undulating tracks to the sounds of chattering
|Ryan Stone in "Symbiosis"
|Melinda Smith in "Symbiosis"
a softly- lit apparition, breathing gently but audibly among the greenery,
would startle the passing procession. Arriving at an overhead platform the travellers
paused to watch members of Somebody’s Aunt gently
waving arms or rolling on the paths below suggesting organic activity. Further on they paused again at the sight of Ryan Stone performing an athletic homage to a stand
of tall gumtrees to the accompaniment of evocative words intoned by poet Melinda Smith.
|Somebody's Aunt - "Symbiosis"
Leaving the magical
rain forest, the travellers began a leisurely meander through the gardens where
they were startled by Alison Plevey’s snarky water dragon before discovering
Olivia Fyfe perched on an aged tree trunk around which she performed a series
of improvisations to the evocative sounds of Alex Voohoeve’s electric cello.
|Alex Voohoeve - Olivia Fyve in "Symbiosis"
Moving on through the gardens to the next location an unkempt old gardener was spied carefully tending the plants. Closer inspection revealed dance legend Elizabeth Cameron Dalman, unrecognisable under a huge drooping hat.
|Levi Szabo in "Symbiosis"
pause, this time to marvel at Levi Szabo performing an acrobatic bone-cracking set of variations among the
embracing branches of a large tree, and then continuing on to discover
Alison Plevey among some native shrubbery where in the guise of a manic robotic
secretary, she performed an
extraordinary sketch satirising government inertia in reacting to
environmental demands. The final destination was a large clearing where the
entire cast came together to perform a massed finale to an appreciative applause.
|Elizabeth Cameron Dalman in "Symbiosis"
tantalising, thought- provoking and entertaining “Symbiosis” is another
strikingly original work from Australian Dance Party. For those willing to
engage with the environment it offered a moving experience. At very least it
provides a unique and captivating perspective on one of Canberra’s most treasured
attractions. With some judicious trimming of the longer segments it could, and
should, become a permanent feature of the annual Enlighten Festival where it
has the potential to become an unmissable attraction. But don’t risk a wait, experience
it for yourself before the season ends.
This review also published in Australian Arts Review. www.artsreview.com.au