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.