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fringe world, perth


entrapment & release

maggi phillips: standing bird, tilted fawn, fringe world


Jacqui Claus, Standing Bird Jacqui Claus, Standing Bird
photo Ashley de Prazer
TWO INDEPENDENT PERFORMANCE WORKS GROUNDED IN DANCE FORMED A COMPELLING CHAMBER OF ECHOES IN FRINGE WORLD FESTIVAL’S DEBUT PROGRAM. ALTHOUGH COINCIDENTAL, STANDING BIRD AND TILTED FAWN’S DOUBLING IN PICA’S EARLY-AND-LATE-NIGHT SERIES INVITED REWARDING COMPARISONS ON THE NATURE OF THEATRE.

Both works centred on lone dancers and their interactions with diverse technologies that operated simultaneously as companion performers and scenographic environments. Standing Bird announced itself as a performance while Tilted Fawn chose installation as its frame but both pervaded spatial axes travelling memory, geographically determined by an Australian landscape in Standing Bird and played out in sonic terrains in Tilted Fawn.

Director Sally Richardson has long pursued sagas of women and wilderness in dance theatre modes, so Standing Bird is like a riven nugget isolated from that endeavour. In this manifestation, Jacqui Claus takes on the quasi-archetypal woman, her sinuous extent pushing against the calculated restriction of a central platform set. Alcoholic self-violation initiates the woman’s lost balance which is caught under a controlling light. The voyeuristic twist of this technical decision punctured the narrative skin, especially since the woman wielding the light was none other than the director herself. Perhaps the intention was to lay bare the workings of the production but its execution exposed power relations which left a bitter edge to the performance.

Imprisonment pervaded the radiant bride’s endless tulle and worked against typical Australian impulses of escape through the Australian coordinates of flight, sea and sand. Filmic projections of drowning on the bridal tulle—now transformed into a shroud—threw an unintentional shadow, its darkness redolent of the performer resisting victimisation. Otherwise, sand, like liberty, fell through fingers and toes, leaving Claus in a mirrored throwback of displacement, set up again by Richardson moving around the set—shackling this life of nudity and collapse.

From this baited position, the bird shudders and stands defiant, the dorsal extensions of her movement resonating with the rippling arms of Pavlova’s Dying Swan. But the angular struggle of emergence is given over once more to the creator who controls the light. Standing, this bird cannot fly.

Melanie Lane, Tilted Fawn Melanie Lane, Tilted Fawn
photo Maik Reichert
Melanie Lane and Chris Clark’s Tilted Fawn from Berlin carries its light and shade with sophistication. The dancer slowly shifts a few dozen cardboard bricks around the space, its concentrated execution enabling spectators to become attuned to the moving sound. Each brick bears a sonic voice within its taupe volume forming, under Lane’s meticulous listening and arranging, mesmerising miniature cityscapes that contribute thickness in the orchestrated space. There is a withheld dramaturgy in the pace which scatters in plaintive cries from the tiny structures when Lane leaves the stage. It is a potent moment when structures mutate into lost memories craving the substance of their being, like children grieving departing mothers.

Lane’s danced return—in fawn unitard stretched over platform footwear—introduces another sort of memory connection via Marie Chouinard and then back to Nijinsky’s Faun. Dance
lineage seems to situate this intervention, illustrating layers of recall which involve intertextuality as well as intimacy. The interlude is brief and soon the mother returns to her sonic strays. She tends her sonic memories with ever-increasing care until, no longer contained within the bricolage of individualised points of reference, they become an immovable force of sound. Her exhaustion in the final moments brings installation firmly into performance. The bricks have left home, have tilted strains of memory over into another space, the curious space of imagining.


For another response to Tilted Fawn see page 25.

2012 Fringe World: Standing Bird, director, concept Sally Richardson, performer Jacqui Claus, sound Kinsley Reeves, dramaturgy Humphrey Bower, lighting: Mike Nanning, costume Fiona Bruce; Tilted Fawn, choreographer, concept, performer Melanie Lane, sound composition, installation Chris Clark, artistic collaborator Morgan Belenguer, dramaturg Bart van der Eynde, costumes, props Melanie Lane, lighting Max Steizl; PICA Performance Space, Perth Feb 7-12

RealTime issue #108 April-May 2012 pg. 7

© Maggi Phillips; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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