Dunstan Playhouse, Fri 2 Oct
A varied and virtuosic exploration of game-playing through dance and music, Play is an entertaining and frequently jaw-dropping work of stagecraft, with live musicians and dancers collaborating in technically-challenging, percussive works that employ a variety of methods, including chess, puppetry, music, and hand games.
There are many surprises in Play worth preserving, but it should come as no surprise that this collaboration between Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Shantala Shivalingappa is fantastic, as these two dancer/choreographers are known to audiences worldwide, and their collaboration was instigated by global dance icon Pina Bausch, who invited them to work together in 2008 and present their efforts at the final edition of her festival five years ago.
Accordingly, there was a level of familiarity and polish in their performance of that collaboration at this year’s OzAsia Festival, despite its billing as something of an unfixed work with room for improvisation. Musical cues came and went flawlessly without apparent notice by musicians or dancers while complex and mind-bending choreographies in unconventional formats occurred at lightning pace without sign of strain or effort.
The musicians moved between a variety of instruments, sometimes while singing, including harp, dulcimer, piano, violin, and various drums, and moments of enchantment, joy, and wonder followed as the music, which would stand up quite well on its own, met with the dancers to offer complicated ideas for the audience to interpret.
One example occurred when the dancers sang a very well-known standard with lyrics that centre on the ability to see, but they presented it in blindfold, dancing at the edge of the stage and provoking laughter while impressing with the obvious skill involved.
Skill is the main ingredient that makes Play work. The dancers both impressed with faultless agility and technique. Shantala Shivalingappa’s Kuchipudi background was utilised, but many other forms of dance were employed, including Topeng-style mask dance, marionette work, and tango. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui also excelled in all styles and both dancers maintained an often-joyful demeanour as they shifted from game to game and role to role.
All told, the performance was spectacular, concluding to rapturous applause, and the audience eventually exacted a musical encore before allowing the performers to depart.
Play continues at Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre, from 7.30pm until Sat 3 Oct.
Book at BASS on 131 246 or bass.net.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.