Lick My Past - Kelly Nash & Nancy Wijohn
7 June 2017, BATS Theatre, Wellington
Kia Mau Festival
Reviewed by Leah Maclean
As part of the Kia Mau Festival (2-24 June) Kelly Nash and Nancy Wijohn take us an on an intimate and comedic journey in their dance-theatre work Lick My Past. Through the lens of two independent women as partners, performers, friends and enemies; this is a journey which explores relationships, self-discovery, liberation and everything in between.
The work opens with the two suavely dressed women frantically darting around the stage to Beethoven’s Egmont Overture, being sure to keep track of the others path, though keeping physical contact to a minimum. With their deft movements, pointed toes and leaps I am reminded of a contemporary ballet piece; paired with eccentric facial expressions and unusual tableaus it is a hilarious one at that. This sets the tone for most of the work – Lick My Past is an exuberant, funny and unique collage of life’s moments; one that had me smiling for the hour duration.
Nash and Wijohn don’t take themselves too seriously in this work. They play with the space, with the capabilities of their bodies and repertoire, they challenge, reciprocate, and complement the others abilities. They are finally allowed to work under their own terms, they are outside of the constraints of a professional company – and they love it! The eclectic choice of music sits well with the work and plays a key part in establishing the mood of its various segments. With their vaudevillian movements, toe tapping and hip bops, it’s like watching a glamorous film from the 60s or Georges Méliès 1902 silent film A Trip to the Moon – in this case my notions are reaffirmed when Nash enters the stage with a moon shaped head. This segment represents the magnetic power and relationship the moon is known to have with women. We watch as Nash slowly skirts around the stage and Wijohn is forced to follow as if by some invisible rope, throwing her body across the stage and taking no prisoners.
Though, as with life, the performance comes with its depictions of trials, tribulations and intimacies. The dancers obscure themselves with large mirrors as they glide and contract across the stage, a commentary on our relationship with reflection and appearance. Nancy conjures up a white picket fence life, which is suddenly ripped away when the pregnant belly she emulates with a white balloon bursts under her. There is a touching duet where the women explore one another’s bodies and discover that each part touched – ankle, spine, elbow, bum cheek – is a glimpse into a memory or a story of their past. The pair has a beautiful chemistry together and a knack for storytelling.
Lick My Past has all the elements of an accessible contemporary work – it doesn’t ask too much of the audience and allows breathing room for those more serious moments with licks of comedic relief. The theatrical side is new territory for Nash and Wijohn and I think there will need to be a little bit more exploration and discovery before they fully crack it. But seeing these two wonderful wahine expressing their freedom, talents, stories and relationships is a very special thing.