Sydney Festival 08 - The Age I'm In
The Age I’m In, Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House, January 8-12; www.sydneyfestival.org.au
To make this new work, Kate Champion gathered a troupe of disparate Australians: young, old, agile, not so agile, dancers, not so dancers, able, not so able, actors and not so actorly and put them in a room until she and they discovered their stories, hopes, dreams and nightmares. The recorded messages from inner space that were the result of this process were then spliced with music, sound, video technology, laughter, wit, imagination and truckloads of humanity to make one of the more glorious events of this festival.
The Age I’m In is grouped in the About an Hour dance series but it has equal elements of theatre, hi-tech and low jokes and crosses so many boundaries it probably ought to have a passport. As well as the laughs there are moments of poignancy and sorrow as well as startling home truths and great beauty.
The use of handheld video screens is innovative and integrated, adding an unexpected and occasionally shocking dimension. For instance, how better to depict the effects of a fragmenting mental state than to see that person literally split apart in separate screens. At the same time, disembodied pre-recorded everyday interviews with “real” people are brought to life through mimed performance in a human version of the ABC TV clay-mation series Creature Comforts. And just as happens on telly, the disjunction between the utterances and the mouthpieces somehow permits a wide and often outrageous spectrum of mundane (or profound) viewpoints.
The Age I’m In is an ensemble piece where the choreographer is the off-stage 10th member of the troupe whose witty work lifts her performers to another level - sometimes quite literally - and depicts their characters and emotions in startling ways (men as women, women as men, partings, greetings, happiness and sorrow all evoked through movement that is separate from but integral to the spoken elements). Is this really contemporary dance? Is it really theatre? Does it matter? It’s Kate Champion’s Force Majeure and it’s brilliant.