Missing Lids - Holly Newsome (Discotheque)
6-10 March 2018, Basement Theatre, Auckland
Reviewed by Hamish McIntosh
Irreverence triumphs in Holly Newsome’s new work, Missing Lids.
Described as contemporary dance/theatre, this piece is the latest from Wellington based Newsome and her company, Discotheque.
The audience enters to three dancers in yellow morph suits sealed in a tight mound. As the work progresses these dancers investigate a range of images and qualities that augment and parody the idea of normalcy.
These Leigh Bowery-esque figures, not unlike Lego Minifigures, explore their space with an alien curiosity. The lighting enhances this strangeness throughout. One memorable moment sees the dancers turn into the light, backs to the audience, and pause as if admiring an artificial sunset.
The three dancers (Isabel Estrella, Jess Newman, and Tiana Lung) all perform the material with mastery. Even the smallest undulation stuns, there is an unseen complexity disguised within their writhing and collapsing. Legs fly, wrists knock, and torsos are mounted in this demanding piece.
The use of computerised voice-over text is a hallmark of Newsome’s work, yet the monologue in Missing Lids is less abstract than previous entries. Rather than random bursts of foodstuffs per Sweet Salt (2017) and Shaving a Cactus (2016) this text is more narrative. Where this cross-work theme goes next is of interest, but hilarious nonetheless.
Conceptually it is difficult to resist feminist readings of Missing Lids. Once the dancers pull off their lemon shells and are revealed to be women the physicality of their dancing is retroactively re-framed. The earlier alien-ness of the movement is transposed into a new context where these movers have boldly navigated a bizarre, perhaps patriarchal terrain. Renowned feminist bell hooks resonates here, saying “I will not have my life narrowed down,”— these dancers seem to declare the same.
The use of Tupperware jingles from the 1970’s and 80’s (you’re Tupperware ladies/you’re Tupperware ladies) is an obvious critique of hyper-gendered advertising, but also an example of the absurdity we are routinely exposed to. As the lyrics speak to the unrivaled thrill of plastic food storage, the dancers strain under stretched smiles. These smiles, contrasted against the music, remind us not only of society’s failure to respect the diversity of femininity but further evoke the sheer inanity that we endure in the name of consumerism.
In the broadest sense, then, Missing Lids is a stark commentary on what normal means, particularly for women, and whether it should be that way. Missing Lids also asks us to contemplate the stupid and strange whilst embracing the ridiculousness of our condition. Newsome’s works are increasingly critical and exciting— not to be missed.