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Mirabelle Wouters, Lee Wilson, Sentimental Reason Mirabelle Wouters, Lee Wilson, Sentimental Reason
photo Matthew Hornsby
Belvoir St theatre seems to be the hippest performance arena in Sydney. Upstairs and downstairs attracts different crowds and the recent slot of shows–Imago, Hamlet and Four on the Floor–have showcased up-and-comers and established theatre folk.

It's hard to maintain a passion for theatre-with-boundaries after experiencing The Museum of Fetishized Identities (see Keith Gallasch's review). Hamlet and Imago seemed so far away, unreachable. The concept of a venue done up more like a rave (The Performance Space) with performances fluid and revolving and great thumping music–do it to me baby–where you can rove with a drink in one hand and a machine gun in the other is pretty hard to beat. I don't like performances where as they speak their dialogue they look above your head into an imagined distance that we the audience can't turn around to see. I like contact, especially downstairs at Belvoir, where the newly renovated space means you are so close you can smell the sweat of the performers. So back to Imago, the final stages of a beautiful butterfly-made, which featured some tough performances, in particular Sara Zwangobani as Cleo and Michael Gwynne as Jon. Its content–a woman who wants to be a man–is just too close to the film Boys Don't Cry and it suffers in comparison. There is no ambiguity–perhaps this is the point–but as a first-time writer, Emma Vuletic's first-time play-off-the-ground shows talent. More crossovers of characters' dialogue, more silence, less posturing, would help it gel, and the good thing about the producers Kicking and Screaming (Chris Mead, Veronica Gleeson) is that they are dedicated to developing new writing and encouraging their writers to continue to work, so Emma's next one will get some careful nurturing.

All the works in Four on the Floor (produced by Legs on the Wall) are strong physical theatre tableaux on relationships and desire, but Where is this?, a challenging piece about the difficulty of creating performance works, doesn't quite fit in the programme. It'd be good to replace it with another double-hander as the other 3 are about erotic relationships between 2 people. The most audacious, Sentimental Reason, is a genuinely disturbing tale of foreplay and liaisons between a woman and a horse (and what a gorgeous horse he is as he pisses loudly and slowly into the front row of the audience) and lolls about, patiently watching us walk in. The use of straps hung from the ceiling, which Lee Wilson bridles, fights and reigns himself in, adds hellfireclub cred and Mirabelle Wouters, decked out in tartan tucked up into her knickers, and later naked astride her bareback plaything, is funny and kinky at the same time. Knots, which opens the night, is a great interplay of rough-and-guts between 2 girls, Ingrid Kleinig and Alexandra Harrison, asking those questions that are deadly serious, intensely physical, broaching power and sexual play. Like most conversations, and unlike most theatre dialogues, most of the time they fail to connect. One asks a question the other never answers. One answers a question the other never asks. And so it goes on. And there's tension as a head is pushed into a bucket–there's a hole in my–and water lashes the floors, to be maneuvered around and slid through, wishy-washy as girlie words.

The current trend is to promote your theatrical wares to groovy types by emphasising the soundtrack. Imago features Dirty Three while Hamlet has the very funky and talented Aya Larkin, lead singer of Skunkhour, in various guises including the player king, while cast members have a go at the turntable, DJing into the night. This music can take away from or give to the performance. In Imago it's just plain irritating, like the musicians have never seen the production and the actors have never heard the music. Dirty Three has a cumulative often awesome power but here they just kind of plonk into the proceedings. Sacha Horler as Ophelia does an offkilter version of Lover Man in Hamlet, Billie Holiday's lament curiously appropriate to her desperate desires: "I go to bed / with a prayer / that you'll make love to me / strange as it seems." In Desire Lines, amongst the angled-legged tango and tender dreamings, Ben Palumbo performs the most gorgeous falsetto, soaring into the rafters. The ending is particularly beautiful, his small red-back to the audience, singing as his partner and his own emaciated shadow slide imperceptibly, the sweat from Paul Cordeiro's bald head staining and scraping the wall as he falls, feather-light. It's a performance I wanted to see more of. Just a glimpse of shadow.

Four on the Floor, B Sharp 2001:Where Is It?, performance/ choreography Rowan Marchingo, director Simon Green; Desire Lines, devisers Ben Palumbo, Paul Cordeiro; Sentimental Reason, concept/choreography Mirabelle Wouters, Lee Wilson; Knots, writer/director Alexandra Harrison, performers Harrison, Ingrid Kleinig, July 19-Aug 5; Imago, writer Emma Vuletic, director Chris Mead, performers Michael Gwynne, Clogagh Crowe, Emma Jackson, Sara Zwangobani; Hamlet, Pork Chop Productions, director Jeremy Sims, performers include Sims, Sacha Horler, Deborah Kennedy, Company B Belvoir St Theatre, Sydney, July 5-August 5

RealTime issue #44 Aug-Sept 2001 pg. web

© Kirsten Krauth; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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