Her Majesty’s Theatre, Wed Jul 9
America’s Pilobolus are dance company like nothing we have seen in Australia before, except for on our television screens. The creative team and performers have married dance, shadow-play and the use of multiple screens, lights and movements to create an event of live animation as it tells the story of a teenage girl who disappears into the shadows of her dreams to find the self that she believes she is. Although there are occasional props to take the audience and the girl on the journey, it is the clever light and shadow-play of the underwear-clad dancers that create the illusionary scenes and creatures: elephants, jellyfish, spiders, camels, a city, a castle, an airplane, a love-struck centaur and the dog-girl.
It’s not always easy to create a storyline in a dance performance that can be readily interpreted by the audience, but Shadowland has done exactly that. With elements Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the occasional Hitchcockian pursuit of nightmares, this macabre journey into the shadows on one girl’s dreams delivers something very different and inventive in the physicality and fluidity of movement as we are carried aloft, tumbling gracefully into the surreal of dreaming. The brain can play tricks on the sleeping conscience and drag it through a nightmare in search of a safe place, and the cast of Shadowland do this with outstanding synchronicity that will leave you astounded – even though there are some moments that may be considered a touch too scary for young children.
Performing along to a fabulous original score of ballads and rock tunes by composer David Poe, the five men and four women of Pilobolus shape and form the seemingly unbelievable before our eyes. It is within those few seconds as the screen lifts between reality and the shadow world that we see the ingenious use of depth and space that goes into creating a solid picture – even when each cast member is standing far from each other. The mind can not help but ponder on the hours, years even, of work and attention that goes into creating each special effect moment.
Within the shadows, the individuals create form. Yet when the screen is lifted they are free to dance and be alive without distortion or illusion. Lauren Yalango is fabulous as the naïve teenager/dog girl, while Krystal Butler owns the stage as the red sequin-clad cruel carnival freak show ringmaster. In fact, all the dancers are skilled, attractive and captivating – not to mention damn clever. The shadow creations are mind-blowing. The music is catchy and drives every emotion of the performance. The comedy and heartbreak work perfectly with and against each other. The psychedelic comical ending and the encore were both outstanding highlights. Let yourself get lost in the visual experience between the light and dark imagery of Shadowland.
by Catherine Blanch
Shadowland continues at Her Majesty’s Theatre at various times until Sun Jul 13.
Book at BASS on 131 246 or bass.net.au.
Additional words by Jenny Thompson
Images by Emmanuel Donny