Wednesday, 2 November 2016

REVIEW: Disappearing Acts at The Place

Brainchild of the ground-breaking company Flexer & Sandiland – led by award-winning choreographer Yael Flexer and digital artist Nic Sandiland – Disappearing Acts is not only a contemporary dance performance but a multi-sensorial installation where the public is an integral part of its configuration. Its main purpose is to explore the concepts of ‘visibility and ‘disappearance’ through an elaborate and fast-paced physicality, spoken word, silly magician numbers and continuous variations on the texture of the performing space, thanks to the use of haze and some eerie sound and lighting effects.

When the doors of The Place auditorium open, we are invited to walk in semi-darkness towards centre stage, where four dozen swivelling stools have been disposed in a large circle. A row of traffic warning lights lays in its middle and produces a haunting noise when it’s activated.

Within the circle and all around us, the performers relentlessly entangle their bodies in constantly changing shapes. There are five main characters, supported by a larger group of advanced training students. The atmosphere is hypnotic. Limbs become parts of a full-scale puzzle in gravity-defying and plastic figures.

Props seem to have been designed purposely to fit the surreal environment and generate astonishment. At one point, a boy and a girl enter the circle wearing a headpiece which holds a long stick topped by a small torch. The devices go on and off alternately whilst the couple grab and avoid each other frantically. In a different scene, a camera is mounted on a pole with two strong flashlights that are aimed at the ensemble, but inevitably blind the audience with their beam.

The spoken word, written by Wendy Houston, is some sort of stream of consciousness that fluctuates between nonsensical clich├ęs and striking inmost thoughts. For a minute I was tempted to take some notes but that would have surely been distracting for others.

The lighting, designed by Nic Sandiland, has a prominent role, giving the room a variable temperature. It can be at times piercing cold or add some warm shades to a temporarily motionless cast. The action shifts occasionally outside the round and the use of spotlights accompanies the eye of the spectator around the space.

Contemporary dance might not be everyone’s cup of tea and some of its dynamics might remain obscure to the larger masses of theatregoers. Nonetheless, with its poignant and evocative choreography, Disappearing Acts is visually stimulating and widely engaging. Thanks to its 60-minutes running time, it certainly offers some approachable material that can be enjoyed by the most diverse crowd. 

Review by Marianna Meloni

Rating: ★★★★
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