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Borders by Henry Naylor: An Intensely Compelling Look From Two Sides Of War – Adelaide Fringe Review
Nexus Arts, Thu 27 Sep.
[Indonesia/Germany ~ Australian Premiere]
This dance piece explores the meetings of different cultures, and the attempt to explain to each other. In this case it is Germany meets Papua, but it could easily be Australia in an East meets West sense.
One of the over-riding themes, we are told, is that of waiting. Can waiting be a work of art? Perhaps another question is, can waiting produce great theatre? While the actors wait for inspiration the audience can be left waiting a little nervously also.
The cast of two men, Papuan choreographer and dancer Darlane Litaay, and Berlin based composer and choreographer Tian Rotteveel, wander around setting up the stage as if waiting for the performance to begin. A screen featuring the performance is moved around, but is only visible to some of the audience at any given point, so are we meant to be watching it?
They take it in turns to play short music pieces on their phones, to which the other dances. This will make more sense later, but it feels like they are just warming up.
There is a scene where the two men are engaged in conversation. In this room tonight, the conversation is barely audible. Perhaps this is deliberate – they are making small talk as a way of getting to know each other and it doesn’t really matter what they are saying? However at this stage of the performance there is still some waiting going on, and this segment feels a little underwhelming.
When the performance does take off it is striking. Our Papuan dancer applies face makeup and convinces his counterpart to do the same. Then dressed in only Papuan kotekas the two men dance, communicating only with loud grunts, in time with some pulsing electronic music that Rotteveel has constructed. There is another scene where these two are creating the beat music together which is equally riveting.
A performance that requires an explanatory letter to be read at the ending, as well as a Q&A afterwards, before aspects of the performance are fully understood, perhaps suggests that some of those aspects are not fully realised within the performance itself.
However, I left the venue feeling like I had seen a remarkable piece of theatre, where the theme of inter-cultural connection had been vividly expressed.
Specific Places Need Specific Danes continues at Nexus Arts from 8pm until Thu 28 Sep.
Book at BASS on 131 246 or bass.net.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.
Image courtesy of Indonesian Dance Festival