Java Dance Theatre, The Creamery
5 July 2017, Hannah Playhouse, Wellington
Reviewed by Kimi Young
As I entered the space where Java Dance Theatre would be performing their show The Creamery, I was surprised at what I saw. The Hannah Playhouse had purposely been set up with half of the audience seated around three edges of the stage while the other half was seated in a typical theatre setting. Everyone had white hairnets on their heads, excitedly chatting to one another. Having never seen a live show by this company, I was intrigued by what artistic director, Sacha Copland, had conjured.
Before the show even started cast member Emma Coppersmith was already in performance mode. She scanned the audience and ensured no head was left without a hairnet. The four remaining performers; Lauren Carr, Natalie Hona, Charley Davenport and Tristan Carter entered a space above the stage singing what seemed to be a Gallic or folk-inspired tune, with Davenport and Carter playing string instruments to accompany.
The Creamery was Java Dance Theatre’s third of a five part Artisan Series. The first show created was about bread (RISE), the second about wine (The Wine Project), and the third and latest is about cheese making (The Creamery). The story-line was simple, yet well conveyed by the cast. It began with Coppersmith milking an imaginary cow through a man-made udder. Conflict arose when another group of cheese-makers (Carr, Hona, Davenport and Carter) collected milk from the same cow. Filled with drama and story-line twists the tension builds, sabotage is attempted, a forbidden romance is short-lived, and the performers fight for the audience vote... who is the best cheese-maker? Eventually, a peace offering is made; the more cheese the merrier!
The Creamery wasn’t occupied from start to finish with dance as Java is a dance theatre company. Dance theatre uses tools such as sound, text, multimedia and exaggerated movement. Though The Creamery used short, yet strong dance phrases throughout the show, it was mainly gestural movement, acting, and live music that was utilised.
The ‘fourth wall’ between the audience and performers was broken right from the beginning of the work. Copland stayed true to her description of the company, in that her cast successfully created an inviting ‘physical tactile world for the dancers and audience to play in’. Milk and cheese was fed to audience members by the cast, salt was passed from row to row, paint was drawn on our faces to separate whose side we were on, parsley was handed out and we were encouraged to throw it at the opposing cheese-maker.
The Creamery was a humorous, light-hearted and enjoyable experience. The cast were convincing in the characters they played, conveying the story clearly with commitment, joy and great synergy.