DANCE – OZ ASIA – Andropolaroid 1.1 – Space Theatre – 3K

By Belle Dunning

Yui Kawaguchi’s production ‘Andropolaroid 1.1’ is an other-worldly exploration of movement, light and sound. It delves into the difference between robot and human, light and dark, rigidity and emotion.

Kawaguchi is a Berlin-based Japanese choreographer and dancer, and brings a very unique feel to this solo dance production. You can see the ballet and hip hop influences, but also just a celebration of Kawaguchi’s own unique movement, rhythm and experience.

The lighting design by Fabian Bleisch really makes the show — the configuration of suspended neon lights, which pulse in time with harsh electronic sounds and Kawaguchi’s movements, create a wonderful backdrop  for the performance as Kawaguchi weaves around them. As a solo dance piece with minimal music, without the lighting, the production could feel a little sparse. I found myself rejoicing each time some recognisable musical notes did pour through, finding myself somewhat challenged by the silence and lack of emotion or humanity at other times.

If you enjoy dance and visual art, and want to see something a little different (that isn’t too long), this is an enjoyable night out.

Kryztoff Rating 3K

MUSIC – DANCE – Patina – OzAsia – Space – 3.5K

By Peter Maddern

In this complex and multi-faceted piece, Adelaide based composer David Kotlowy has laboured to present a work that combines not only Australian and Asian musicians and aesthetics but also a production that combines these influences across technological eras.

Kotlowy himself sets that tone in the first of the four main pieces, or series of visual and sonic vignettes, with his journey across the Space stage playing the shakuhachi before multiplying and manipulating its tones through electronic means. The five piece Gamelan in situ then answer his call from the opposite pole of the stage, their delicate touches perhaps overwhelmed by the amplification adopted.  Between them, Juno Oka creates his wave like visuals on four coffin like boxes around which Ade Suharto and Shin Sakuma periodically mesmerise with their dance.

Thus Patina evolves almost into a hypnotic work that speaks not only of the transient beauty of nature but also those senses of imperfection, the other world of memory and our fragile position in it all.

Being in a contemplative mood will certainly elevate the effect of Patina and help summon up the appreciation of the conception and performance the work deserves.

Kryztoff Rating  3.5K

WAR SUM UP – OZ ASIA – PLAYHOUSE – 4.5K

War Sum Up is an hypnotic palimpsest of music, entrancing vocals and stunning visuals.

A woman in modern-day dress enters playing a music box and drifts into beautiful and melancholy singing. Located at the front of the stage she attempts to continue with her life in spite of the dramas unfolding behind her. The theme is war, and the effect of war on individuals. These individuals are a soldier suffering from PTSD who eventually dies in war, a warrior killed in battle, and a spy who is captured but manages to escape after becoming a super-being.

Based on characters from Japanese Noh theatre, the cast of twelve wear Japanese-style costumes with a futuristic slant. Projected images range from ancient prints through vintage photographs to contemporary manga-style illustrations.

The clever double-storey set has both a back screen and a translucent scrim in front, these are used throughout to great effect. At times I felt as though I was watching a very lush movie, or else immersed in an art installation. Occasionally the experience was psychedelic as the cast seemed to move up and down amidst the overlapping images, at other times the images seemed almost as real as the performers.

Phrases from Japanese poetry would appear on a screen suspended high above the front of the stage. For me this was a distraction as it kept drawing my eye up and away from the performance Aesthetically I felt it was out of place. But this was a very small annoyance in what proved to be a stunning performance.

Presented by the Danish Hotel Pro Forma in collaboration with UK art-pop ensemble The Irrepressibles and Latvian composer Santa Ratniece, War Sum Up is performed by the Latvian Radio Choir. This was their Australian debut.
War Sum Up was performed at the Festival Theatre Playhouse on Nov 5th & 6th.

4.5K

MUSIC – OZ ASIA – HAVELI – NEXUS – 5K

This is a show that is surely bound for larger stages and I feel very lucky to have experienced it up close in the intimate Nexus venue.

Western jazz has long been interested in Indian classical and Carnatic music but Sydney saxophonist Matt Keegan is interested in blending Indian folk music, principally from the Baul tradition of West Bengal, with contemporary Australian jazz. The result is music with a wonderful earthiness, which is joyful, at times playful, and full of surprises. The band radiate the enjoyment of their craft and their respect for one another and their different cultures and traditions.

Featuring Baul singer Raju Das with his astonishingly beautiful and powerful voice accompanied by the khamak (a drum with 2 strings plucked with a large plectrum), Deoashish Mothey from Darjeeling on dotara, esraj, guitar, percussion (and his more subtle but equally lovely singing), Gaurab Chatterjee who is a drummer in a rock band in Kolkota who also played the dhubki (a Baul hand drum), Australian jazz bass player Steve Elphick, and Matt Keegan on saxophone.

The result of chance meetings of people drawn together by their love of music, The Three Seas is a cross-cultural project which has been developing over the past ten years. Five years on from those first encounters they released their first album, recorded inside an Haveli; an Indian castle. Last year was the first time that the group appeared on an Australian stage and they made their second album here.

The venue at Nexus allowed the audience to appreciate the dexterity and skill of these musicians. The choice of Lyndon Gray and his Carnatic Jazz Project as support act was inspired. Drawing as it does on the Carnatic tradition of Southern India, a style more familiar to western jazz audiences, it prepared the audience well for the show that was to follow. The rendition of Charlie Parker’s Ornithology and the saxophone playing of Jason McMahon were particularly special.

5K

DANCE – OZ ASIA – Sutra – Dunstan Playhouse – 4.5K

By Belle Dunning

Energetic, fierce and playful. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s critically acclaimed ‘Sutra’ brings to life the daily rituals of 19 Shaolin monks and explores the intersect between East and West. With a stark but simple set (by Antony Gormley) and a subtle orchestral score (by Szymon Brzóska) as their backdrop, the monks’ physical prowess and disciplined movements are given the space to stand out.

Gormley’s set design was an absolute highlight. Nineteen tall wooden boxes — one for each monk — dominate and become the stage upon which the story plays out. The boxes create new possibilities for movement and interaction between the dancers as they are dragged around, and continually recreate the look and feel of the performance for the audience.

The youngest performer, a boy of around 6 years old, brings an element of play and curiosity to the performance, challenging the rigidity and conformity of the set and the monk’s kung fu sequences. 

Unfortunately, on the night of the performance, Cherkaoui was unable to play the principal role, and was substituted by Ali That. This role felt a little artificial and overdone in comparison to the monks’ performance, but that was perhaps the point — to explore the relationship between East and West, highlighting the differences and commonalities, and constantly challenging who was leading and who was following.

Sutra is a beautifully choreographed and put together production, where every detail has been carefully thought out. For a production reaching its 10-year anniversary, its energy and unique artistic voice continue to push it beyond the realm of just ‘dance’, into something much more powerful and memorable.

Kryztoff Rating 4.5K

THEATRE – Baling – OzAsia – Nexus – 4K

By Peter Maddern

The independence of Malaya from British rule after World War II is not a story much told or understood in this country. As difficult as the British may have been, the major complication to it all was the Chinese communist insurgency under its leader Chin Peng that had lasted eight years.

Malaysia’s Five Arts Centre brings that story to OzAsia under the title of Baling being the location where the talks by the Chief Minister of Singapore, David Marshall, and the Malayan leader, Tunku Abdul Rahman, with Peng took place under an intense national and international focus.

This two hour performance takes us through exchanges between those participants via transcripts of the day with contemporary video and personal additions from each of the three performers. To encourage seeing each party’s perspectives (and maybe also to alleviate bot rot) the audience was required to keep moving their places around the Nexus floor, taking their mats with them with the players also exchanging their roles.

From the details of the debate, the model behaviour of the participants and the demonization of the Communist leader a full picture of the dynamics, then and since was very successfully portrayed by director and creator Mark Teh and his team. Certainly, this reviewer was left pondering the merits of the ideological and personal stances taken by Peng and Malaysia’s subsequent reaction to him.

The performance was nearly marred by an unfortunate few cultural warriors who thought they knew best as they guffawed and sniggered their way through references to such things as the British, the Australian constitution and some of the rhetorical examples used in the cut and thrust of the debate. They were perhaps better suited to expressing their superiority as members of a Q & A audience. When the realities of communist insurgencies of that area after World War II were recounted (Korea, China / Taiwan and later Vietnam) one may not have agreed at the Tunku and Chief Minister’s hard line positions in 1955 (and the role of the British) but they were entirely understandable and, as time has shown, the outcomes have served the Malaysian independence journey pretty well.

As OzAsia is want to do, this production tests an Adelaide audience for its particular subject matter and its alternative form of storytelling. But for anyone interested in the history of our region (and of course those from that area) this was an excellent production, well conceived and thought through and delivered with credibility and respect for the people of the time they represented.

Kryztoff Rating  4K

DANCE – Salt – OzAsia – Odeon – 3.5K

By Peter Maddern

Eko Supriyanto is a pioneering choreographer of Indonesian contemporary dance. The last time Adelaide was blessed with his presence was with the acclaimed Cry Jailolo in OzAsia 2015.

This time he works alone in his piece over two parts that opens with dissonant screeches with Supriyanto almost invisible in the right rear stage behind a blinding silver shoreline just in front of the audience. By the show’s conclusion, he has swept forth and back, one side and t’other, spreading a pile salt every which way.

His movements incorporate both grace and menace as he combines folk trance and war dances in his interpretations about the forces of the ocean.

While entrancing, it probably requires a well-trained dance eye to fully appreciate the work as Salt is not as accessible as Cry Jailolo was – but as always, this speaks to the crux of the OzAsia challenge to Adelaide audiences.

Kryztoff Rating  3.5K

THEATRE — OZ ASIA — While I Was Waiting— Dunstan Playhouse —4K

By Belle Dunning

‘While I Was Waiting’, from Syrian playwright Mohammad Al Attar and directed by Omar Abusaada, has its Australian premiere at the 2018 Oz Asia Festival. Touted as one of the ‘shows to see’ at this year’s Festival, it doesn’t disappoint. 

The production follows the story of Taim, a young Syrian man brutally beaten at a security check-point in Damascus. While he remains in a coma, we watch the drama of his family’s life unfold around him, blatantly exposing the ordinary lives, emotions and fears of everyday people in Syria. As they struggle to make sense of why he was beaten, and reflect on the realities of the Civil War in Syria since the Arab Spring of 2011, the audience is given a raw insight into the impact of this conflict on ordinary people.

Taim’s coma acts as a metaphor for the limbo in which Syria itself is caught, suspended in never-ending conflict, unable to move forward. Through the use of a two-tiered stage, Taim himself watches over his family from above, also suspended in time. A sense of futility, confusion and despair comes through strongly, and a feeling that everyone is lost — both those who have stayed in Syria and those who have left.

Perhaps this production does not add anything new to the political conversation about Syria, but it does provide a valuable insight into what feels like a real family’s experience of the conflict. And it is refreshing to have the main character’s perspective as that of an ordinary citizen who struggles to understand the purpose of the conflict, the need for violence, and his place in the world — rather than the image of the angry, violent extremist often portrayed in the media. 

The decision to perform the show in Arabic (with English surtitles), and to intertwine real video footage and music, adds to the authenticity of the narrative and helps to transport the viewer to that time and place. The only pitfall was that the surtitles weren’t always synced up well with the spoken script, which disrupted the flow and made it a little difficult to follow at times.

Both a political commentary and a portrayal of an ordinary young man’s life, ‘While I Was Waiting’ adds a much-needed human element to our understanding of the Syrian Civil War. While throwing into the contrast the stark difference between our lives in Australia and the conflict in Syria, it reminds us that we’re all just humans, struggling to make sense of the world.

Kryztoff Rating 4K

THEATRE – How the Other Half Loves – Galleon – Domain Marion – 4K

By Peter Maddern

In its 50th year, the Galleon Theatre Group dishes up a delightful comedy about infidelity in the workplace. Alan Ayckbourn’s play takes place in two homes of less than domestic bliss with the absent minded Frank (Andrew Clark) wedded to the bored Fiona (Joanne St Clair) who has taken the fancy of the younger Bob (Andy Steuart) while his wife, Teresa, (Leanne Robinson) labours at home with their new born.

With Bob working with Frank, it is the new accountant, the dull William (Aled Proeve) and his even duller wife Mary (Britany Daw) who are used as the scapegoats when the night out on the tiles by Fiona and Bob raises questions at home.

What may be a routine set-up is made more deliciously complex with the setting in both couples’ homes interlocked on the stage and all players doing their stuff together though a day apart in time.

It is a complexity that Director, Warren McKenzie and his team manage admirably, not only seemingly making themselves transparent when necessary but making the most of the comic moments when switching in and out of the audience’s attention. Brittany Daw’s set design is ideal for the 1969 setting with nothing about the ‘both sides of the tracks’ decor seeming out of place.

Pretty hard to separate an excellent cast but Andrew Clark’s hare brained Frank perhaps stands out above all others.

This is great entertainment for an audience that seemed well stocked for post-show nibbles ad refreshments but everyone will feel welcome and go home much pleased for the evening at the Domain.

Kryztoff Rating   4K

DANCE – OZ ASIA – Dancing Grandmothers – Dunstan Playhouse – 3.5K

By Belle Dunning

Dancing Grandmothers is an energetic and creative demonstration of the modern Korean woman and Korea itself. Eun-Me Ahn (Korea) crafts a diverse program featuring a group of 10 dancers and 10 grandmothers, mixing traditional dance with modern electronic music, videography with real life, sporadic free-form movement with carefully choreographed precision.

High intensity movement to the point of exhaustion, pushed onwards by endless driving beats, seems to reflect the persistence, endurance and physical labour that has built modern Korea, at the hands of these woman who are now the grandmothers on stage.

Violent movement contrasts against exuberance, joy and gracefulness. Vivid clashing colours display a freedom and bring the personalities of the dancers to life. Despite the hard work and turmoil of their past, the love and pure happiness reflected in the faces of the grandmothers and dancers as they move on stage is what stays with you. 

Some sections of the piece do require a little patience as they continue a little longer than necessary, but the overall program is a diverse offering with something for everyone.

Dancing Grandmothers is a celebration of movement, laughter and human connection, with dance as the common language. If you’re after an energetic and uplifting night, this is one not to miss.

Kryztoff Rating 3.5K