Force Majeure's Not In A Million Years

Behind the scenes with Kate Champion and Force Majeure
Award‐winning, internationally acclaimed, dance theatre company Force Majeure returned to CarriageWorks in November 2010 with a world première of their new work Not In A Million Years. For the first time, Kate Champion and the company of Force Majeure opened up their rehearsal room and documented the process of creating a brand new work from conception through to opening night.

Respected journalist and broadcaster Caroline Baum joined Force Majeure during rehearsals posting regular ‘fly on the wall’ pieces. Wk 1 | Wk 3 | Wk 4 | Wk 5 | Wk 6 | Wk 7

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The content and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author alone; they do not represent the views or opinions of any organisation, artist, group or any other individual.
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Dec 8 '10

Hear from the man behind the music… Not In A Million Years’ Sound Designer and Composer, Max Lyandvert talks to Caroline Baum

(Source: youtube.com)

Comments
Dec 1 '10
Review: Stage Noise
Force Majeure is back with a bang!By Diana Simmonds
KATE CHAMPION’S new work opens with a pas de deux so subtle, inventive and heart-stoppingly beautiful it takes your breath away and replaces oxygen with tears and wonder. Not In A Million Years was created by Champion, Roz Hervey and Geoff Cobham and the title refers to the kinds of things that can happen to a person, otherwise ordinarily going about their lives, that you wouldn’t - couldn’t - ever imagine.So, the opening features Vincent Crowley and Elizabeth Ryan enacting the longest few minutes during which flight attendant Vesna Vulovic went from serving tea and coffee on a mundane flight across Europe to being not only the sole survivor of the terrorist bomb that exploded her plane, but also enduring the 10,000m fall back to earth. She was found, broken but alive, in snow-covered, rural Czechoslovakia and her life thereafter was same, same but different.Dressed in her neat blue uniform with a perky red kerchief around her throat, Ryan epitomises the way Champion’s Force Majeure company can fashion indelible images and ideas out of the apparently mundane acts and people of the everyday. In this instance the outstanding indelible image is a huge heap of white polystyrene “snow” in which the show’s creators and four dancers perform acts of alchemy. The banks and dunes of tiny white beads are formed and re-formed by the movement of the dancers, a powerful, well-aimed fan and by scoops wielded by the dancers. Each change in its contours allows the material to become something else in the eyes and imagination of the audience: the Czech winter landscape is the most obvious and immediately physical; others are far more rarefied and inspired.Flanked by two irregular, swooping, oversize flats that transform Bay 20 at Carriageworks into a dark, funnel-shaped space, the dancers and their white material are almost spilled into the laps of the audience. It also means that when parts of the action take place outside the enclosed area - such as when the statuesque Sarah Jayne Howard morphs into American long-jumper Bob Beamon - and literally climbs the walls in her efforts to train for Olympic gold, the alienation he experienced is tangible. The same goes for the woman who begins to relate the horror story of living with a husband who’s been in a coma for more than a decade. It happens behind the jail-like bars of light thrown by louvred hospital windows; his movements - another astonishing pas de deux - as the comatose, barely living man are at once frightening and graceful and when he tells of coming back to life and its aftermath, the feeling turns to shock.Possibly the most effective use of the dense white setting is in the way it suggests the suffocating subterranean world where miners Todd Russell and Brant Webb (Crowley and Joshua Tyler) were trapped. The two disappear into it and the audience is left to contemplate invisibility, the unknown, the white blindness of total dark - and other sensations the two endured for so long with their jokes, songs, and inconceivable fears and will to live. The awful serendipity of this particular story choice - post the Chilean happy ending and during the tragedy of Greymouth - made it particularly poignant on the night.The collaborators of Force Majeure, with Max Lyandvert’s music and soundscape, have created a bold, beautiful, thought-provoking work that defies the boundaries of dance, theatre and the barriers between. It might not suit those who like their dancers to dance in conventional ways; it might be a bit obtuse for those who like their theatre with a beginning, a middle and an end. But, if you enjoy the experience of skyrocketing imagination and flair, the courage of convictions and ingenuity beyond the bounds of the everyday, there’s every chance you’ll come out of Not In A Million Years on a high of exhilaration and uncommon joy.
Photo by Lisa Tomasetti.

Review: Stage Noise

Force Majeure is back with a bang!
By Diana Simmonds


KATE CHAMPION’S new work opens with a pas de deux so subtle, inventive and heart-stoppingly beautiful it takes your breath away and replaces oxygen with tears and wonder. Not In A Million Years was created by Champion, Roz Hervey and Geoff Cobham and the title refers to the kinds of things that can happen to a person, otherwise ordinarily going about their lives, that you wouldn’t - couldn’t - ever imagine.

So, the opening features Vincent Crowley and Elizabeth Ryan enacting the longest few minutes during which flight attendant Vesna Vulovic went from serving tea and coffee on a mundane flight across Europe to being not only the sole survivor of the terrorist bomb that exploded her plane, but also enduring the 10,000m fall back to earth. She was found, broken but alive, in snow-covered, rural Czechoslovakia and her life thereafter was same, same but different.

Dressed in her neat blue uniform with a perky red kerchief around her throat, Ryan epitomises the way Champion’s Force Majeure company can fashion indelible images and ideas out of the apparently mundane acts and people of the everyday. In this instance the outstanding indelible image is a huge heap of white polystyrene “snow” in which the show’s creators and four dancers perform acts of alchemy. The banks and dunes of tiny white beads are formed and re-formed by the movement of the dancers, a powerful, well-aimed fan and by scoops wielded by the dancers. Each change in its contours allows the material to become something else in the eyes and imagination of the audience: the Czech winter landscape is the most obvious and immediately physical; others are far more rarefied and inspired.

Flanked by two irregular, swooping, oversize flats that transform Bay 20 at Carriageworks into a dark, funnel-shaped space, the dancers and their white material are almost spilled into the laps of the audience. It also means that when parts of the action take place outside the enclosed area - such as when the statuesque Sarah Jayne Howard morphs into American long-jumper Bob Beamon - and literally climbs the walls in her efforts to train for Olympic gold, the alienation he experienced is tangible. The same goes for the woman who begins to relate the horror story of living with a husband who’s been in a coma for more than a decade. It happens behind the jail-like bars of light thrown by louvred hospital windows; his movements - another astonishing pas de deux - as the comatose, barely living man are at once frightening and graceful and when he tells of coming back to life and its aftermath, the feeling turns to shock.

Possibly the most effective use of the dense white setting is in the way it suggests the suffocating subterranean world where miners Todd Russell and Brant Webb (Crowley and Joshua Tyler) were trapped. The two disappear into it and the audience is left to contemplate invisibility, the unknown, the white blindness of total dark - and other sensations the two endured for so long with their jokes, songs, and inconceivable fears and will to live. The awful serendipity of this particular story choice - post the Chilean happy ending and during the tragedy of Greymouth - made it particularly poignant on the night.

The collaborators of Force Majeure, with Max Lyandvert’s music and soundscape, have created a bold, beautiful, thought-provoking work that defies the boundaries of dance, theatre and the barriers between. It might not suit those who like their dancers to dance in conventional ways; it might be a bit obtuse for those who like their theatre with a beginning, a middle and an end. But, if you enjoy the experience of skyrocketing imagination and flair, the courage of convictions and ingenuity beyond the bounds of the everyday, there’s every chance you’ll come out of Not In A Million Years on a high of exhilaration and uncommon joy.

Photo by Lisa Tomasetti.

Comments
Dec 1 '10

Review: ArtsHub

By Lynne Lancaster

'Everything seems rewritten, another kind of awake.'

This is an extraordinary hour of mesmerizing theatre. Powerful, hypnotic and lyrically moving, it leaves you gasping for more. Award winning, internationally acclaimed dance-theatre company Force Majeure under the direction of Kate Champion bring to CarriageWorks, the world premiere season of their astonishing work Not in a Million Years. It interleaves the true, yet almost unbelievable stories of people who have somehow survived, endured and created extraordinary events during their lifetime.

Incorporating Force Majeure’s trademark blending of images, movement and speech, Not in a Million Years is an intense, deeply probing and visually stunning exploration of extreme odds and the resultant ultimately life changing aftermath.

The set as designed by Geoff Cobham is basically a huge mound of polystyrene packing ‘flakes’ that can become ice, snow, ash or grass for example, or the mine rockfall. The crunching sound they sometimes make is important. A fan is sometimes used to shift the undulating swirls, or large boards. Sometimes it is as if the cast are struggling underwater. Projections are used to distinguish each story and the lighting is ravishing. Max Lyandvert’s score impressed immensely.

There is the story of flight attendant Vesna Vulovic (Elizabeth Ryan) who survived a plane explosion over Czechoslovakia. Her rescue, a fragile shattered hand being pulled from the ash is a haunting pas de deux.

The amazing story of the Beaconsfield miners Todd Russell and Brant Webb discovered alive after six days after a mining accident: they were trapped 900m below ground and in a space just 4.5 m - at times the performers, Vincent Crowley and Joshua Tyler, are ‘buried alive’. Their survival is told in voice over dialogue with bleak humour, their rescue (with the use of miners’ lights) almost like Lazarus rising.

How would you cope if you won £37 million? We see how Angela Kelly’s win actually ruined her life and made her a recluse.

We follow the incredible story of Ewa Wisnierska, a leading hang-glider, who was tossed into a massive thunderstorm and propelled to a height equivalent to a metre above Everest and yet survived with minimal frostbite. Dangling injured in a helmet, she is rescued seemingly in boneless freefall.

Donny Herbert’s very sad story of being in a coma for ten years, waking up for a day and talking to his family and friends is also brilliantly told, There is an extraordinary ‘unconscious partnering’ pas de deux where Donny’s wife (played by Elizabeth Ryan) manoeuvres him around her, the floppy weight of hand or arm for support being very important - all the time he is in a coma yet she begs him to “say something.” This is contrasted by the astounded, confused monologue for Donny (Joshua Tyler) when he is out of the coma, trying to comprehend and make up for lost time.

Bob Beamon, who broke the Olympic long jump record in 1968, is represented by fast and furious pas de deux between a coach and a female athlete, sort of break dancing at times, and at others Sarah Jayne Howard throws herself up the wall in efforts to reach higher.

And finally the stunt story of Phillipe Petit high wire walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Centre is included as a most excited monologue.

Champion’s choreography is magnificent - contemporary dance with at times, a touch of Butoh and Tankard, with some possible Robert Le Page influences overall. Sometimes it is angular, folded and enclosed (e.g. Angela Kelly, trapped inside the folding screens) yet at others lyrical, poetic and flying. The amazing cast of four play multiple roles and cross genders (e.g. Beamon played by a woman, Kelly by a man).

A strong, haunting piece about life, death and fate. Force Majeure have produced a short major work that is a mini masterpiece. See it.

(Source: artshub.com.au)

Comments
Dec 1 '10
Review: SMHExtraordinary moments captured in snowReviewed by Jill SykesA PARAGLIDER is propelled higher than Mount Everest and gets back to earth with minor frostbite.A man goes into a coma for 10 years, wakes up and talks for 16 hours then slips back into unconsciousness. An athlete breaks a world record so convincingly that he is shunned by fellow competitors. A flight attendant survives a midair explosion that kills everyone else on board.A single mum wins a lottery and it ruins her life.
Kate Champion has chosen extraordinary happenings as the basis for the latest dance theatre work by her company, Force Majeure. To a certain extent, we glimpse them but it is more the idea of unlikely “lucky” survival set against “unlucky” success, with a constant background of human stress and unimaginable endeavour.
They are great subjects, treated with inventive skill, and at the end of an hour I found myself very moved by their combined impact. Sarah Jayne Howard’s athletic efforts under the dictatorial command of her coach are thrilling and chilling, the most interesting movement in the piece. Elizabeth Ryan is poignantly convincing as the wife of the man in a coma. Vincent Crowley and Joshua Tyler are funny, dramatic and tear-inducing in their unseen dialogue as the Beaconsfield miners Todd Russell and Brant Webb, who were found alive after six days and pulled out two weeks after the cave-in that trapped them in a tiny space.
Designer Geoff Cobham has piled the performing area with deep “snow” that can be seen to cushion the fall of people to earth, earth that buried the miners or simply as an element that comes from nowhere, builds up and provides an impediment in people’s lives. Just watch these strong performers push through it and imagine yourself in soft sand.
In retrospect, mentally sharing the effort probably contributed to the final impact. As it happened, though, there seemed to be a little too much struggling through the “snow”, at a very slow pace, allowing time to worry about all the heavy lifting the performers had to do and whether they were breathing in fragments of the packing material.
But with Cobham’s lighting effects and the help of a large electric fan, it looked great and Max Lyandvert’s subtle music added enormously to the emotional weight of the storytelling. It is a strong piece that will linger in the mind.
Photo by Lisa Tomasetti.

Review: SMH

Extraordinary moments captured in snow
Reviewed by Jill Sykes

A PARAGLIDER is propelled higher than Mount Everest and gets back to earth with minor frostbite.A man goes into a coma for 10 years, wakes up and talks for 16 hours then slips back into unconsciousness. An athlete breaks a world record so convincingly that he is shunned by fellow competitors. A flight attendant survives a midair explosion that kills everyone else on board.A single mum wins a lottery and it ruins her life.

Kate Champion has chosen extraordinary happenings as the basis for the latest dance theatre work by her company, Force Majeure. To a certain extent, we glimpse them but it is more the idea of unlikely “lucky” survival set against “unlucky” success, with a constant background of human stress and unimaginable endeavour.

They are great subjects, treated with inventive skill, and at the end of an hour I found myself very moved by their combined impact. Sarah Jayne Howard’s athletic efforts under the dictatorial command of her coach are thrilling and chilling, the most interesting movement in the piece. Elizabeth Ryan is poignantly convincing as the wife of the man in a coma. Vincent Crowley and Joshua Tyler are funny, dramatic and tear-inducing in their unseen dialogue as the Beaconsfield miners Todd Russell and Brant Webb, who were found alive after six days and pulled out two weeks after the cave-in that trapped them in a tiny space.

Designer Geoff Cobham has piled the performing area with deep “snow” that can be seen to cushion the fall of people to earth, earth that buried the miners or simply as an element that comes from nowhere, builds up and provides an impediment in people’s lives. Just watch these strong performers push through it and imagine yourself in soft sand.

In retrospect, mentally sharing the effort probably contributed to the final impact. As it happened, though, there seemed to be a little too much struggling through the “snow”, at a very slow pace, allowing time to worry about all the heavy lifting the performers had to do and whether they were breathing in fragments of the packing material.

But with Cobham’s lighting effects and the help of a large electric fan, it looked great and Max Lyandvert’s subtle music added enormously to the emotional weight of the storytelling. It is a strong piece that will linger in the mind.

Photo by Lisa Tomasetti.

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Comments
Dec 1 '10

Review: Daily Telegraph

Packed with action and polystyrene 
By Xanthe Kleinig

FROM the moment the first spotlight brightens the stage, it’s clear this is no typical dance performance. In that light is a lone man, wearing a polo shirt, and he’s talking.

Force Majeure are known for pushing the genre of dance to its limit, and this production is no exception. Four multi-disciplinary artists are variously actors and dancers as they delve into the extremes of human experience. Surtitles are projected on to the stage to provide documentary background for each segment.

First is the story of air hostess Vesna Vulovic who miraculously survives an Pushing the genre: Vincent Crowley and Elizabeth Ryan aircraft explosion over Czechoslovakia. She emerges from drifts of polystyrene filling piled on stage, the fall of the foam exaggerating each movement as it fills the spaces left by her injured body. Her rescuer uses a table fan like a snowplough, clearing her way to leave what appears to be a snowy mountaintop.

The foam is a versatile set, prop and effect all in one it becomes the earth over Beaconsfield miners Todd Russell and Brant Webb, the clouds around a paraglider sucked into a thunderstorm and lottery money won by a Scottish mail worker.

Seven different stories are covered in this ambitious production, which also includes Philippe Petit’s highwire walk at the World Trade Centre, Bob Beamon’s recordmaking long jump at the 1968 Olympic Games, and US fireman’s Donny Herbert’s awakening after 10 years in a coma.

With so much great material, it seems a shame each of these moments of extremity are packed into the tight, one hour time frame.

Comments
Nov 29 '10

Excerpts from Stage Manager Erin Daly’s nightly Show Reports

Erin’s show reports are a record of the season for the crew and the cast - these are not generally seen by anyone else.  She records anything that needs to be followed up, notes about audience response and cast performances, any technical issues - basically all notes and reference material in regards to the running of the show.

Below are some short excerpts from Erin’s show reports that give you an idea about how the show flows over the course of a season.

Wednesday 17 November - preview
A good first performance by all, still working through the nuances of some of the technical aspects and timings, performers dealt well with the challenges. Good work by all, and a big thank you to our show crew.

Thursday 18 November - opening night
A lovely performance tonight by all, the show had a wonderful energy this evening. A very warm and supportive crowd tonight. Very attentive, and generous with laughter. Our best technical show yet, our rehearsals today helping us all! Things are still settling, however transitions were much improved, and need only to be run in. Some wonderful backstage work by Paul, Aaron and Aliza tonight, keeping things running smoothly.

Friday 19 November
A good solid show this evening, things starting to settle. A smooth technical show. We have trialed a new cue sequence going into the Paraglider scenes. 2 curtain calls taken, cheering and strong applause.

Saturday 20 November matinee
Audience this afternoon unable the resist the Miner’ s humour. Generous and supportive throughout the piece. Kate would like to hear the Vesna applause (SD Q 2) louder, at the moment the fade is quiet long.

Saturday 20 November evening
Smooth technical show.

Tuesday 23 November
Good technical show. Post show chat onstage with the cast and Kate Champion was well attended.

Wednesday 24 November matinee
A very solid performance today. Audience included a school group; they were very responsive and enjoyed the piece. Some delighted laughter at the Miners’ sections. Strong applause. Post show chat with the audience for 15 minutes was well attended and some very intelligent questions were posed by some of the school kids

Wednesday 24 November evening
A wonderful performance tonight. The Miner’s scenes had a particular resonance with the news story today about the tragic incident in New Zealand. A fabulous audience this evening, with some friendly faces in for our fundraising night. The Miners delighted as usual, strong support throughout the piece. A few people decided to play in the flakes afterwards. 2 Curtain calls taken, strong applause.

Thursday 25 November
A good show this evening, a few small moments with props. A fairly quiet audience this evening. Thank you to Aaron, our new AV operator- great work!

Friday 26 November
A great show from our cast this evening, sailing through our technical mishap. During “Reverse Long jump” the AV Mac computer started to make a concerning loud screeching sound that sounded like the hard drive was trying to eat itself. The computer was completely unresponsive - it would not even turn off, but continued to screech. Show stop called at the end of “Measuring”, audience announcement made (stopped for 6 minutes). Thankyou to Paul who managed to get the computer to stop screeching. The audience started fairly quiet this evening, but after the show stop were more responsive, with some good laughter for the Miners and Donny. Besides from this issue it was a smooth technical show.

Saturday 27 November matinee
A strong and lovely show this afternoon. Supportive audience this afternoon, quiet laughter through the usual places.

Saturday 27 November evening
A beautiful final performance by all this evening. 2 Curtain calls taken, strong applause. A good technical show. Bump Out went smoothly, fairly lengthy with the clean up of the flakes, FM crew finished by 2:30am.

Comments
Nov 29 '10

Review from Vibewire

22 November 2010
By Lara Drieberg

Not in A Million Years explores the lives of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. The production features a montage of seven feats, unique to in the history of mankind, yet manages to remain expressly human. The fragility of the human experience is depicted by the resilience of man kind contrasted with jealousy, anxiety and fear. Based on true stories that whisper of ‘miracles’ Not In a Million Years leaves you feeling grateful for the quiet of anonymity.

Whilst a picture may paint a thousand words a breadth of emotion is told through movement. Set to hauntingly pretty music that effectively leaves you tingling in your seat, Not in A Million Years utilizes unique infusions of movement and dialogue. Dance theatre really does surmise the dynamic; the company is not afraid to get experimental which results in a piece that is original in more than the sense that it is new.

The ensemble of four stands out for their versatility.  Projected text set the scenes and effective choreography translated stories through the performers’ bodies. The intimate performance space furthered the authenticity of the emotion. Some parts were overwhelmingly harsh but they recovered from this and were able to switch momentum easily. The dialogue interjected humour into the raw strain of their narratives and kept it from getting too dark, which made it easier let go of the protagonist and switch between story lines.

An intriguing use of minimalist props facilitated movement between storylines. The narratives were expressed through more than words and it was interesting to watch the combination of mediums evolve. Whilst the staging never changed its manipulation effectively altered the settings entirely. These brilliant re-workings were the strongest aspect of the show.

For a company whose focus is collaboration they complete the mission successfully. Force Majeure’s originality is intriguing- definitely a company to keep your eye on.

Read the review online at vibewire.org here.

Comments
Nov 29 '10

Review from Stage Whispers
Not In A Million Years

10 years in a coma, trapped in a mine for two weeks, propelled to the edge of the stratosphere, falling 33,000 feet from an aircraft, beating a world record by 50 times over, winning $70 million or walking on a wire cable across to the North Tower of the World Trade Centre - Not In A Million Years showcases seven phenomenal true stories, some of which audiences will be familiar with and others they will learn of through this performance.

Force Majeure is a company of four performers Vincent Crowley, Sarah Jayne Howard, Elizabeth Ryan and Joshua Tyler headed up by award winning Artistic Director Kate Champion. Champion has created such an original work with this production, the way the stories weave from one to the other and then also weave back, so we learn more and yet don’t feel dislocated is very clever.

Thousands of ‘snow-like’ polystyrene pieces in the space are used to change the shape of the landscape depending on which story is the focus. Two transparent screens create the sides and throughout the performance, text is displayed on these screens to guide us.   Dance, dialogue and group work are integrated to give shape to these stories. The performers change the landscape of the ‘snow’ using boards, large fans and choreography that gouges out and moves the ‘snow.’

I thought the company could have explored the story of Philippe Petit further and created something visually more dramatic around the high wire walk with the use of aerial dance or  something that would have elevated our feeling of risk and generated an element of the anxiety that the onlookers would have felt.

One particular moment in the piece which visually stood out to me, was the story of Angela who goes from royal mail worker to multi-millionaire, literally over night. In this piece, Angela is played by a male and is boxed in and moved around through the polystyrene in doors that have a venetian-blind effect allowing the light to stream in - like a sort of phone box, symbolic of Angela feeling trapped inside and looking out.

I think the concept of creating a work that captures some of the most truly phenomenal stories allows us to also realise a lot of things come down to chance. Apart from the high-wire walker and the Olympic athlete, the other stories just happened because of luck, circumstance, physics and weather. It allows us to reflect on the fact that a lot of life is stranger than fiction and that we really live day to day in the lap of the gods.

Emma Bell

Read the review online here.

Images by Lisa Tomasetti.

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Comments
Nov 23 '10

Review from Crikey of Not In A Million Years

November 22, 2010 
Lloyd Bradford Syke
Full article on Crikey.com.au

Force Majeure again proves itself to indeed be a superior force in dance-theatre, if not the pre-eminent one. It’s new work, Not In A Million Years, directed by Kate Champion (assisted by Roz Hervey), debuted in CarriageWorks’ cavernous Bay 20 to an exceedingly warm reception. In contrast to so much abstract, conceptual work in this genre, FM deploys spoken word, projected text, music, sfx, dramatic lighting, literalistic and figurative stage devices to explicate their ideas and themes.

The result is almost immediate identification and recognition: accessibility is a distinctive hallmark of their repertoire; whether, as on occasions past, collaborating with the likes of Sydney Dance Company, or standing on its own eight feet (Vincent Crowley, Sarah Jayne Howard, Elizabeth Ryan and Josh Tyler’s).

The work focusses on a set of unbelievably true human, bordering on superhuman, triumphs. These feats and accidents are so outrageously improbable they tend to imply an element and raise the spectre of a force beyond our knowing. This implication imbues the hour-long piece with a haunting, magical ambience, enhanced by Geoff Cobham’s design, the omnipresent Max Lyandvert’s composition and sound, as well as Tony Melov’s audiovisuals.

Many beanbags must have died to provide the massive expanse of snow-like styrofoam pellets assembled in a way that seemed to resemble the shape of Tasmania; partially appropriate, since one of the narratives centred on Todd Russell and Brant Webb, with Crowley and Tyler carrying on a comedic conversation while buried beneath the featherweight whiteout. In reality, of course, the pair were trapped in a tiny space nearly a kilometre underground, for two weeks. They could neither stand not sit. They kept busy cracking jokes at each other’s expense, harmonising on Kenny Rogers songs and fantasising about beer, footy, tropical paradises and being pleasured. For a dance company to have the tongue-in-cheek temerity to devise a work utterly devoid of movement is piquant and the stasis is entirely arresting.

A man desperately tries to pull a woman from knee-deep snow. Strangely, she’s attired as a flight attendant, right down to the characteristic kerchief tied in a casual not ’round her neck. Indeed, Vesna Vulovic has ‘flown’, for a full three minutes, vertically, downwards, unhindered by parachute, plunging 10,000m over Czechoslovakia, after the aircraft she was aboard exploded mid-flight. To choreograph a rescue, transforming it into a mode of fluid, elegant dance, as has been achieved here, is something of a creative miracle in itself. The result is tender and heartrending, the rescuer caressing her broken body and forming a bond of the most pure, elemental nature. It is transfixing.

In a similar feat of aerial survival, an experienced paraglider, Ewa Wisnierska, was sucked into a thunderstorm and propelled to an altitude of around 10,000 metres, a literally stratospheric height. Unconscious, she was held, in a state of cryogenic suspended animation, before regaining consciousness and heading earthwards at 200km/h. We see her swinging from her parachute, then spiralling, suspended on the shoulders of another dancer, towards an almost certain death, which she cheated, landing frostbitten, but completely intact.

Bob Beamon long-jumps an unprecedented 9 metres, outclassing all previous attempts by a veritable country mile. It doesn’t matter that a broad-shouldered female dancer fulfils this role, coached by a no pain, no gain’, old-school trainer, who pommels ‘him’, in a gruelling, make-or-break regimen that, despite the violent physicality it represents, has rhythm, line and a rough-edged, raw beauty about it. Again, bodily endurance is called into question, tested and the transcendence of the spirit and its capacity to triumph celebrated in a moving way.

Philippe Petit steps off the south twin tower, long before 9/11 rendered it and its sister rubble, into thin air. Well, almost. All that separates him from oblivion is his hire wire, a 3/4-inch cable. He walks to the north tower and back no less than eight times. To a chorus of cheers, a dancer carves a symbolic, pioneering path through an expanse of nothingness, and history.

Donny Herbert is 43, but was 10 years younger when he lapsed into a coma. His wife caresses, cajoles, prods and ‘manhandles’ him, in a desperate attempt to bring him back to her. Finally, he awakes but, after 16 hours of catching-up and failing to come to terms with his 10-year absence, including a son he doesn’t even recognise, he relapses, taking a further two years to pass away. The verbal and physical ‘dance’ between the couple is wrenching and, yet again, the Champion, Hervey and dancers succeed in choreographing the unchoreographable.

As above, not all our stories end happily. Angela Kelly, a single mum, has, you’d think, struck it exceptionally lucky in winning about $70 million, such that she becomes one of the richest women in the UK. Yet she becomes paranoid, incapable of sustaining relationships of any kind due to her suspicions. As is portrayed by her limited movement around the stage in a kind of cage, her life (played by a male), far from expanding to meet the opportunities afforded her, has shrunk and withered and subjected her to a whole other form of poverty.

Force Majeure finds a depth and poignance in reality and does us the profound service of reminding us it’s there, if we take the time to look and reflect; to engage our whole being in so doing. Simplicity, accessibility, humanity and improbable events can help us find the extraordinary in the everyday, right where it lives. For any work, or company, to reinvigorate that sublime awareness is something for which to be profusely thankful.

Tour de Force Majeure?

Head over to Crikey to see the full post

Comments
Nov 23 '10

Week Seven: Caroline Baum’s rehearsal room notes

As anyone who has been following this blog will know (and thanks for the comments, all of you, they’ve been great), up until now everything has gone smoothly. But the bump-in to Carriageworks proves to be bumpier than most. The plotting of the show runs so far behind that it bleeds into the tech rehearsal, so that everything is running at least half a day behind. At the production desk, faces lit by laptop screens look tense, jaws are clenched. They look like a bank of air traffic controllers trying to bring a plane in through a storm.

There is some brief discussion about cancelling the preview, but Kate decides to plough on. The only sign that she is under pressure is that one of her legs shakes uncontrollably. When someone asks her if she’s alright she replies very calmly ‘ No I’m not,  and I’m not going to pretend I am’ but with the same courtesy I’ve seen for the past six weeks she still  thanks the performers for getting through a frustrating stop start run.

Max and Roz sit in different parts of the auditorium, checking sightlines and sound quality. The flakes, which Kate refers to as kitty litter, are much noisier than anyone realised and they drown out some of the spoken recorded text. There’s nothing anyone can do about that now. But the visual effect makes up for that. Liz’s extravagantly curly hair gets caught in Josh’s shirt while they rehearse a sequence. Could be tricky if they can’t disentangle themselves in time.

After Kate’s given notes to the cast sitting, as usual, on the cold concrete floor of the foyer, they eat a pre preview dinner of Thai takeaway - prawn crackers crunch like the flakes, so for a minute it sounds like they are eating the set. Geoff’s computer crashes and he loses all the notes the team have just spent several hours making about lights and text projection.

At the other end of the foyer startling creatures start to arrive, flamingos on stalks in beaded dresses, ready to parade in the Ultimo Fashion College show.
The preview, which is really a technical run through, goes surprisingly well, considering.

Overnight, Kate makes the last changes she can.

On opening night Kate, Max and Jeff watch from the production box. Up there, away from the public, a significant handover takes place. The show no longer belongs to Kate. She’s handed it over to Erin, who is now calling the shots. Someone has moved Vince’s ladder a fraction out of the spotlight for his opening monologue, but from there on, things proceed pretty seamlessly.
 
And as the applause begins, another invisible transition takes place in the dark in the course of those sixty minutes: now the show belongs to you.

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Nov 22 '10

Comments
Nov 22 '10
Based on true stories that whisper of ‘miracles’ Not In a Million Years leaves you feeling grateful for the quiet of anonymity.
Lara Drieberg, Vibewire

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Nov 22 '10
Theatre show explores stories of survivalSource:     7pm TV News NSWPublished:  Saturday, November 20, 2010 7:25 AEDTWonderful coverage from ABC News - you might have seen this on Saturday evening or on News 24. Watch the full story.

Theatre show explores stories of survival
Source:     7pm TV News NSW
Published:  Saturday, November 20, 2010 7:25 AEDT

Wonderful coverage from ABC News - you might have seen this on Saturday evening or on News 24. Watch the full story.

Comments
Nov 19 '10

Stage Manager Erin Daly’s notes from the world premiere of Not In A Million Years at CarriageWorks on Thursday 18 November 2010…

A lovely performance tonight by all, the show had a wonderful energy this evening. A very warm and supportive crowd tonight. Very attentive, and generous with laughter. Our best technical show yet, our rehearsals today helping us all! Things are still settling, however transitions were much improved, and need only to be run in. Some wonderful backstage work by Paul, Aaron and Aliza tonight, keeping things running smoothly.

1 note

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Nov 19 '10
Our mates from Sydney Festival were in the audience at Opening Night.

Our mates from Sydney Festival were in the audience at Opening Night.

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