Nexus Multicultural Arts Centre, Sat 3 Oct
In the exploration of noise, it’s just as important to pay careful attention to the silence. Similarly, with darkness and light. In Dear John, a musical/physical theatre piece dedicated to John Cage (the one famous for his Four Thirty Three piece, in which no instruments are actually played) – this is even more so.
One of Cage’s most important themes is the musicality of everything in the world around us, thus the feature of natural instruments as well as rather unusually contrived instruments, such as an open frame piano construct and some hydro-dynamic versions of mechanical flutes.
Cage’s philosophy is that everything is music and the first obvious rhythm of the show is a drip into a beaker. This is lit from below and in the dark, the disturbance of the drips hitting the water is like a small lightning bolt – sudden, bright and quite captivating!
The first performance piece has the main character donning a top that is ‘wired’ to the open piano and performing a bizarre dance seemingly aiming towards escape and at the same time creating some rather unusual music. This is clearly perceived on several levels, including how our ‘dance’ leads to the music of our life.
Next is something of a duel between the main percussionist and the dancer, who are the protagonists silence vs noise; it’s sometimes dark and deep, sometimes simply fun, and ends with the dancer silencing the piano by laying on it. Along the way we experience some fascinating and unusual elements of percussion and open piano playing. The most interesting, visually, is the ‘cyborg piano hand’, but we also experience just how much energy is in those vibrating ‘strings’ by how far items sitting on them will bounce.
I suspect that I will never again see a percussion solo piece played on the stairs at the back of Nexus. Overall this is a fascinating and challenging sensorial experience. After the show ended, the whole audience was able to interact and play with some of the musical props, in particular the ‘piano’ – which was a lot of fun!