“Testing themselves to the limits of athleticism and speed in individual and collective vignettes, the daring of these performers takes your breath away.”
Jill Sykes, Sydney Morning Herald – Read more…
Kate Champion sets her nightmare scenario with several minutes of a darkened theatre and a scary soundscape. When the lights come up, we see the roof of a house resting slightly askew on a few centimetres of its walls and a square of healthy lawn.
At first glimpse, the roof looks like a familiar scene of flood devastation. Except there is no flood. People and a couple of search dogs are walking around it. This is a symbol of all the awful events that might overtake us in our ordinary suburban lives – the theme of Already Elsewhere.
Having succeeded in putting the frighteners on her audience before she introduces the performers, Champion goes on to explore personal terrors through a cast that is bold and skilled in their ability to put into physical theatre the thoughts and fears that run through our minds.
Their performing space is that steeply sloping, tiled roof and the small patch of grass in front – grass that gets crushed under pounding feet and falling bodies so that its fresh, cheerful smell is an optimistic counterpoint to what we see.
The performers are credited with the choreography, which has been inspired and shaped by Champion as director of the production and the company, Force Majeure. Testing themselves to the limits of athleticism and speed in individual and collective vignettes, the daring of these performers takes your breath away.
Fiona Cameron’s limbs wind in knots as she wishes she was dead and under the grass with her family. Kirstie McCracken’s body seems to be racked with the pain of emotions and foreign substances. Lee Wilson’s confrontation with a sofa is quite terrifying in its physicality.
Sarah-Jayne Howard is a powerhouse of action, yet wistful in thoughts of her “apricot family”. The strong, practical Veronica Neave is given poignant revelations under the roof through a filmed sequence. Byron Perry’s fleetness and motivation make him a pivotal figure. Tom Hodgson works well as stand-in for Nathan Page.
They fuse meaning into their actions. This is an intensely felt production, boosted by powerful and poetic words by Brendan Cowell – mostly in voice-overs – and evocative sound, designed and composed by Paul Charlier.
Stark lighting and the set design, both by Geoff Cobham, play a huge role in the impact of the piece: stifling, disturbing, wanting to know what happens next, but half-wishing it would end soon and release you from the tension.
In fact, tension was lifted earlier than planned when the canine cast members returned to bring the piece full circle, only to find an interesting smell on the grass and add their contributions. This was discreetly done, but accounted in part for a ripple of laughter at the end – that and the audience’s agonised absorption for the previous hour.
Champion wanted to do something different from her previous Sydney Festival success, Same, same But Different. She has done that, and the result is gruelling – but worth it.
Jilly Sykes, Sydney Morning Herald
“Made brilliant by Cobham’s technical miracle, Already Elsewhere is world-class dance-theatre, a heartbreakingly lucid statement about present realities and the resilience of youth.”
Jacqueline Pascoe, Dance Australia
“a generous and sensitive humanity and the priceless ability to take an emotion and not just describe it in words, but make it tangible and visible to the eye.”
Colin Rose, Sun Herald
Photos: Branco Gaica