Festival's First Moves a Rich Symphony of Chaos
Friday 3 October, 2003
Review by Lee Christophis
"Chunky Move teases open the 2003 Melbourne Festival's kaleidoscopic feast of dance with a complex, hybrid dance-theatre work, Tense Dave. In fact it's more like lifting the lid of Pandora's box on what the program suggests might be "one man's moment of crisis blown apart like an exploded diagram."
Created by choreographers Gideon Obarzanek and Lucy Guerin, theatre director Michael Kantor, dramaturg Tom Wright and a superlative cast and crew, Tense Dave unfolds on a disorientating, ever-spinning stage.
Loose walls frame the action in something like a nautilus shell, with eccentric personalties living in each separate segment of the shell. Dave overhears them and climbs between the walls, curious to see who lives inside. Soon he's abused by a secretive, mellifluous speaker (Brian Carbee) who photographs his own shiny, shod feet; then a suicidal fantasist in a nightie (Michelle Heaven) tries to knife him; he intrudes on a romance-reading, creme de menthe-swigging Victorian lady (Stephanie Lake); and is jumped on by a hyperkinetic boy (Luke Smiles) who wants to kiss him. And this is just the start of things.
As walls swing, spin and disappear (Jodie Fried's set dances too), as Niklas Pajanti's light floods or deserts the space and Francois Tetaz's sound shifts from dislocating rumbling to more musical tones, piled-up episodes trace Dave's delusional trajectory. Enthralled by the Victorian lady (a drawing room drama that becomes a terrific four-hand farce), he ends up raping her. A frenetic chainsaw massacre leaves him chopped, tossed and flattened.
In a delicious antidote to this lucid terror, Heaven dancers her index finger around to Carbee's commands - sad finger, stabbing finger, bungy-jumping finger and more. This unique dance is a harbinger of a calmer but no happier resolution for Dave, unfreezing his tragedian's mask before he reaches out to a quieter Heaven.
Their attempts to reach across a wall - the work's greatest single metaphor - becomes a trio of breathtaking poignancy and simplicity, the rising-falling wall the third dancer.
Any empathic soul will tap immediately into Tense Dave. Like life, some of it's too long, some too short, some too tightly packed, but that's small matter given the rich material and articulate performances, notably that of Brian Lucas, one of Australia's most commanding actor-dancers. Harrowing and magnificent, his Dave will live long in memory."