Lifeworld (in five parts) - Footnote New Zealand Dance
19 October 2016, Opera House, Wellington
Reviewed by Leah Maclean
The latest work by Footnote New Zealand Dance is the brainchild of Claire O’Neil; Lifeworld (in five parts) is exactly how it sounds. The show is built around our relationships with everyday life, objects and phenomena. This ranges from the mundane of trying to choose a shirt in the morning, to the less mundane of tripping on magic mushrooms.
Lifeworld is an accessible piece of dance theatre; in that the audience can sit back and just enjoy being present while the talented dancers consisting of Jeremy Beck, Brydie Colquhoun, Emma Dellabarca, Joshua Faletua, Jared Hemopo and Lana Phillips hurl themselves across the stage. Lifeworld does not ask hard-hitting questions, more it points out and celebrates the different ways we move through life.
The performance opens with a shirtless Jeremy Beck with the rest of the cast racing on stage trying to dress him. There is a pause and Beck says 'no' to a jacket that is offered, the audience laughs, this is the first indication that humour is going to be an integral part of the show’s execution. What follows next can only be described as organised chaos or rather, just chaos. The dancers bound across stage in a blur of limbs and insurmountable energy. While I can appreciate their stamina, this sequence is dragged out far too long and I can’t decide whether it adds anything to the story. This element recurs throughout, and still the jury is out on its purpose.
There are plenty of clever elements for the audience to admire. There is the footage, shot by Jeremy Brick, projected on the backdrop adding that extra layer of creativity and sometimes helping to clarify what is actually happening on the stage. There is the moody lighting and erratic mix of audio. But there is nothing that stands out more than Jared Hemopo’s morning ritual sequence. We watch as the young dancer goes about his morning business, from waking up to brushing his teeth, eating breakfast and so on. We also watch as his fellow dancers use their bodies to shift and change into the objects Hemopo interacts with. They are a bed, they are a wash basin, Brydie Colquhoun acts as the stream of water, they are a washing machine, tables and chairs, a laptop. The sequence is seamless and an absolute joy to watch.
Another gem is the struggle Beck finds when trying to choose a shirt to wear. The five other dancers brandish a multitude of shirts his way, chanting ‘SHIRT SHIRT SHIRT’. He goes through beautifully choreographed motions of dressing and undressing, in a strange way it keeps you on the edge of your seat. The decision takes on way more importance than necessary and I can’t help but whisper, “I relate to this on a deep level.” Humorous indeed, however the performance delves into darker territory. Colquhoun trips on magic mushrooms in the dead of night, her maniac laughter and unpredictable movement is discomforting. Then Emma Dellabarca’s disturbing struggle among a pile of road cones calling out for help, becoming more desolate and lost as she succumbs to whatever illness or disability ails her.
Footnote performs well and they meld together fluidly which creates lovely tableaus. However, with the incessant running across stage and in circles one has to wonder if their talents were somewhat under-utilised. Lifeworld is a mixed bag to which O’ Neil states that it is something open to individual interpretation, being that the theme of the show is built on just that. The idea is straight-forward, easy to comprehend and with just the right amount of quirk.