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Jackson Davis, Lovely Jackson Davis, Lovely
photo Heidrun Löhr
Director Jackson Davis informally introduces us to Lovely, a “ritualistic” performance he initially envisaged as a eulogistic solo (in a fat suit!) in honour of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman—“He’s always been my favourite actor and first celebrity crush”—but which became a large-scale collaboration with fellow members of re:group performance collective, PACT’s 2014 Artists-in-Residence, utilising 40 brief clips from the actor’s 30-year film career. Davis tells us he hopes the ritual might conjure the actor to join us at performance’s end.

It’s a fanciful invocation and its slightness, in the end, is inescapable, but once the production swings into cinematic action, we are faced with one and many Hoffmans: a huge variety of characters, very distinctive moods and demeanours, hairstyles, ages, body weights, ways of speaking, phone handling, walking and dancing.

Like the greats of American cinema’s golden age Hoffman evinces a reassuring sameness to which he lends sufficient difference role to role. I was struck by this when watching two of his last films: in A Most Wanted Man (2014) he is a driven, indefatigable German spy boss; in God’s Pocket (2014) he’s a reticent American working class truck owner and petty crook on the side. Neither is a great film but, as ever, Hoffman is utterly watchable, his physical heft, slow movement and drawl suggestive of gravitas—in one film the character’s mind is responsive and active, if blind to the limits of his power; in the other it’s emotionally disengaged and short on foresight—a man who feels deeply but doesn’t know what he thinks, let alone how to articulate his thoughts.

re:group performance collective, Lovely re:group performance collective, Lovely
photo Heidrun Löhr
Lovely is seriously and delightfully ‘cinematic.’ The blank PACT space is quickly transformed into a film studio with the humblest of means. The clips shown on a centre-stage screen above the action are duplicated live by the ensemble, male and female, who play Hoffman while otherwise acting as camera, lighting and sound crew, providing live-feed images to two screens either side of the first. They wittily, sometimes parodically, reproduce reverse field, close-up and tracking shots as well as introducing design elements (a cut-out boat waved overhead for The Talented Mr Ripley), but generally treat their subject with closely observed affection (silly moustaches aside).

Best of all is the production’s dancerly seamlessness—the crew constantly on the move, setting up scenes while others are being shot, swirling from one location to another, actors one moment, crew the next—climaxing with the whole ensemble taking their cue from the exacting party scene in The Master in which Hoffman’s Dodd dances drunkenly while cruelly belittling his followers.

Lovely reveals Jackson Davis (a University of Wollongong graduate following in the footsteps of the artists who comprise TeamMESS and Appelspiel) and his collaborators to be highly inventive, possessed of a fine sense of dramatic structure and the spatial and visual sensitivity with which to give life to their loving gaze.

PACT, re:group performance collective—PACT’s 2014 Artists-in-Residence, Lovely, concept, video, direction Jackson Davis, co-direction Carly Young, dramaturg Malcolm Whittaker, video technician Solomon Thomas, performers, co-creators Emma Hoole, Pippa Ellams, Christie Woodhouse, Lauren Scott-Young, James Harding, Hannah Goodwin, Kirby Medway, Oliver Trauth-Goik, PACT Theatre, Sydney, 11-13 Dec, 2014

RealTime issue #125 Feb-March 2015 pg. 36

© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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