Posts Tagged ‘performance’

Todos a Marar is an informal group of so-called agents that is inspired and supported by Improv Everywhere, the New York group that “causes scenes of chaos and joy in public places”. Here Todos a Marar’s mission in Lisbon was called “People are Strange”. A group of 7 agents met in a Park close to a train station where they received the briefing for the mission: to go in a single file to the Tell El Inglés shopping centre, with each agent representing a unique character. They had to enter the centre with naturalness, walking up the escalators to the top level and back down again. The aim was to arouse smiles and laughs in people busy with shopping, and it seem the goal was by and large achieved. After 30 minutes, shopping centre security expelled the group – amazing they let them act for that long; the agents left without fuss. Watch the reactions of shoppers, staff and especially one of the kids!

The Age I’m In (Force Majeure)

Posted: November 30, 2008 in creativity

the-age-im-inLast night we saw a moving dance performance at the Carriageworks in Sydney by Force Majeure (directed by Kate Champion), called “The Age I’m In”. The title of the project refers to both, the times we’re living in as well as as the different ages that were represented by the eleven performers. What we saw were in fact moving bodies, themselves ranging in age from early teens to early eighties (!), playing the roles of their own lives as well as those of others, right down to young children.

Apart from the performers, spatially the large stage was also sparingly filled with semi-transparent screens, lights in multiples shapes, shades and colours, and a stream of sound ranging from jazz to brass band to electronic intelligent dance music, all dubbed over by voice fragments collected in 80 pre-performance interviews with people from all walks of life and of all ages. The dancers continuously moved their bodies and lips to the soundbites and changing figures of light, which at times not only created a feast for the senses but also hilarious moments, eg when an adult in his mid 40s suddenly seemed to speak with the voice and earnestness of a 6 year old.

The whole idea behind the gestural dance of voices and music seemed to tap into the contemporary consciousness of the Australia, embedded in the age and ages people live in. The performers’ artistry transformed verbal interview statements into revelations, ranging from the seemingly innocent reflections on life by a 6 year old to the protesting resistance against parental values by teenagers to problems and afflictions of ageing suffered by the grandparents’ generation.

But far from personalising those issues, the individual statements were framed within larger societal contexts, such as public health (for example breast cancer, drug problems), diverging generational value and culture expressions (eg different music tastes or the bemoaning of a society that has lost the notion of respect), treatment of minorities (one of dancers for example is partially disabled) or the controversial and fickle role of religion in society. The only omission for me was the role race plays in Australia, especially since we live in a country that still hasn’t come to terms with its indigenous past and is often struggling with living up to its ideals about multi-culturalism. 

But “The Age I’m In” though was not just about the grand themes and storylines running through contemporary society; the performance also focused on the physical and emotional intimacy of relationships and the difficulties of expressing them in often hostile contexts. Moving examples (literally) were the presentation of disability, ageing and breast cancer.

In all cases it was not just the rivetting physical articulation through gesture and movement in light and sound that intrigued and transmuted the spectator’s experience, but also the dexterous handling of certain props like those small portable video screens. For example, being moved from head to toe and back again by some dancers in front of the bodies of other dancers revealed in a powerful way not just the nakedness below their cloths but also the physical vulnerability and mortality of our human lives.

In fact, these video screens played an important role throughout the performance. They complemented the lighting and sound effects through moving on-screen patterns, amplified verbal statements through video clips or simply underlined the rawness of the human experience by becoming an almost living part of the wild dance forms expressed by the adroit bodies of the performers. As such they also somewhat blurred the boundaries between the physical planes of the dance and the cyborg world where humans and machines are melded into weird synthetic and hyopthesised life forms – an aspect of growing importance in the age we are in.


Meret & Ars Vitalis

Posted: October 12, 2007 in creativity

Last night I went to the Meret Becker performing with the German ‘music as theatre’ trio Ars Vitalis at the Studio. I didn’t know what to expect, and I’m glad no one told me beforehand; if I would have known it’s cabaret, I wouldn’t have gone. In this case though ignorance led to … well, lots of fun and no regrets. The almost 2hr performance was called “Hamonie Desastres”, a French pun meaning ‘harmony disasters’ as well as ‘harmony of the stars’. And I guess both makes sense, given that Meret describes their acts as arising from chaos.
Harmonie Desastres was poetry created from eruptions of theatre, magic, acrobatics, linguistic affluence, heavy metal, roaring jazz, a cappella shanties, classic cabaret songs, college rock and more. The performance sometimes took on the character of dream sequences, especially with those strange instruments like toy pianos, kids trumpets, handsaws and others that probably don’t even have names and would require elaborate descriptions. I think the Opera House blurb with excerpts from German newspapers describes best what last night was all about.
Meret provided a “kooky, weird and wonderful mix of absurdist cabaret, vaudeville, circus acts, wild projections, shadow puppetry and wacky waltzes … a hilarious and musically exhilarating journey from seedy underground Berlin to the future of 21st Century cabaret”.
Meret is right in the thick of it – snake and Lolita, Picasso artist with a touch of Josephine Baker. She breathes strangely twisted lyrics into the microphone and erupts into roaring vocalization shortly after – truly grand entertainment.
Ars_Vitalis.jpgAgainst the backdrop of a decapitated white swan beneath the stars and moon, the gentlemen of Ars Vitalis take up positions. Drummer Klaus Huber caressing his cymbals and toms with hand brushes while guitarist Buddy Sacher quietly ponders and saxophonist Peter Wilmanns measures the distance between instrument and microphone with finicky exactitude, Meret Becker in the midst of this miniature chamber of weirdoes. She looks gorgeous in her embroidered harlequin slack-suit, roaring Twenties style. It’s their joint tour »Harmonie Desastres«, a startling, pulsating, glistening composition of freak show, nostalgia fair, bizarre and magic musical moments…
Meret Becker comes from Berlin and is an acclaimed international cabaret performer, vocalist and hula-hoop extraordinaire. Ars Vitalis are Buddy Sacher, Peter Wilmanns, Klaus de Huber – three weird looking guys in their fifties (or older); they are behind their multi-award winning concept ‘music as theatre’. See also the SMH for more background on Becker, and their website on Ars Vitalis.