ENJOYABLY ENGAGING AND THOUGHT PROVOKING
Created by Jo Randerson and Kate McIntosh in collaboration with Footnote Dance
at Te Whaea National Dance and Drama Centre, 11 Hutchison Rd, Newtown, Wellington
From 20 Apr 2012 to 22 Apr 2012
Reviewed by Helen Sims, 21 Apr 2012
Hullapolloi, a collaboration between Jo Randerson and Kate McIntosh, commissioned by Footnote Dance, returns to Toi Whakaari this weekend for a short season before touring overseas. If you can get along to it, you should – this is a rare high quality, genre-busting work that is both experimental and entertaining.
Five dancers – Lucy Marinkovich, Emily Adams, Manu Reynaud, Olivia McGregor, Levi Cameron – present a wordless narrative that charts group dynamics in an age of individualism and consumerism. The story is told through movement and symbolism, rather than words. The five performers are entirely clad in different coloured lycra bodysuits that completely obscure every part of their body, including their faces. They communicate by noises and touch.
The group starts off leaderless, their movements largely synchronised and matching. They cooperate and collaborate in work and play. Due to a lack of self-consciousness, I wondered if this was meant to represent people (or other human like creatures) in an innocent, childlike state, although it is open to a number of interpretations. At this point, although the performers all wear different coloured suits, they seem less like distinct individuals and more like parts of a whole.
Regardless of what meaning you place on the initial group dynamic, it is not long until it begins to change towards self-centred and self conscious behaviour. As the performers begin to both literally and figuratively consume the paper objects placed in piles around the stage by placing objects under the ‘skin' of their lycra suits they become more competitive. Exchange of objects begins as mutual trade, but degenerates into theft and greedy accumulation of far more objects than one person needs. The ‘bodies' of the performers become more distorted the more they consume.
It was at this point in the work that I began to conceive of each performer as an individual character: the olive character driven to breaking point by over-consumption; the blue character who assists green with the monopolising of objects; and the more playful brown and orange characters, who align as the ‘have-nots'. As distinct as each character becomes, the performers are unified in their amazing ability to convey a huge range of emotions and tones – all with their faces obscured.
Randerson and McIntosh engage with a wide range of themes, whilst refusing to provide any clear messages. Because of this the work is refreshingly open to interpretation and can remain playful rather than didactic. The work also eludes any attempt to define it as ‘dance' or ‘theatre'. It is a richly layered production where sound, movement, objects and light combine to produce an experience that is both other-worldly and yet recognisably human.
On reflection I found myself wondering about the significance of the title, the multiple possible interpretations, the colour choices and more. The carefully selected details of this work were a real stand out for me. Hullapolloi is an excellent work that manages to be both enjoyably engaging and thought provoking. Get to it while you can.
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