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Review: FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF CHAOS… at Odeon Theatre

Review: FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF CHAOS… at Odeon Theatre

Described as a self-curated experience.

Reviewed by Ray Smith, Thursday 1st December 2022.

From the Other Side of Chaos... is a well-named piece by the internationally renowned Australian Dance Theatre, but perhaps From Every Side of Chaos would have been a more appropriate title in order to warn audiences of the cacophonous mayhem and madness that they were about to find themselves in the middle of.

As I entered the Odeon Theatre foyer, I was greeted by a wall of six large flat monitors in two rows of three, and while the top three screens displayed the usual logos and an acknowledgement of country, the lower three bore more curious and cryptic texts.

The lower screens read, from left to right:

"Tonight is a self-curated experience. Feel free to move between the foyer and the main performance space at any time during the show. Follow your curiosity."

"You will not be required to interact with the performers or the props, so please keep your hands to yourself. Unless you enjoy karaoke."

"The performance has many moving parts. Keep your eyes open. If you've had one too many wines, find a nice place to sit down."

There was another screen, on another wall, that showed live action from the performance space, and while I was at least half an hour early for the beginning of the show, it had quite obviously already started.

In my confusion, I headed to the bar.

It was not my confusion that triggered that particular action, but rather the opposite, because as an Arts critic, I instinctively head to the bar, like a moth to a flame, it was just that, in this case, I was quite naturally following my instinct while simultaneously confused.

My companion arrived a scant couple of minutes behind me and, since this was definitely not her first rodeo, looked for me at the bar, where she found me staring at a small poster that stated that a particular beverage was recommended by tonight's dance troupe. Rather than cause offence we ordered two pints of that and wandered off into the performance area past a pile of randomly stacked musical instruments.

The space contained makeshift plinths holding random objects, what appeared to be a couple of clothes racks draped in strips of cloth, coils of shockingly white rope, and microphones; lots of microphones. Some were on stands, some on the occasional plinth, some on the floor, and some suspended by their own cables from a variety of objects.

A long, slim man in a jumpsuit sat on the floor mournfully playing a saxophone, and a bench with a pair of curious percussion instruments made from threaded steel rods and glass poles was attended by a woman, deeply engrossed in the business of coaxing deep and sonorous notes from these very peculiar things. I made a mental note to try to construct one for myself at the earliest opportunity.

A young, barefooted man, with shoulder-length hair reminiscent of portraits of the Nazarene, wandered aimlessly around the space, all the while rotating a crank handle attached to a wooden board and, while he pursued this activity with great diligence, it seemed to do nothing at all.

As I, too, wandered around, trying to find something as recognisable and sensible as a bar, I noticed a rather extensive range of electronic audio effects units scattered about, their myriad lights winking and flickering in expectant readiness in the dimly lit space.

Others wandered with me, some seemed to be perplexed audience members, while others I recognised as members of the highly regarded dance theatre, whose gig this was, some of them carrying obscure objects such as a ghetto blaster, silently waiting for someone to press the play button that would send the cassette-imprisoned tape over the magnetic play head, or a disconnected piece of audio hardware torn from its rack, mute and helpless without a cable to connect it to something else.

A voice echoed around the space clearly and matter-of-factly stating, it is
seven-fifteen. It was the first thing that I fully understood. It was also the last.

What followed was a loud, violent, sensuous, Circus of Chaos that was impossible to follow as a whole. Rather, I focussed on the actions of some of the dancers, whose complex, impossible, powerful fluidity bore testament to the international acclaim that this dance troupe has enjoyed for years.

The many microphones were used to amplify movement. A person rocking on a piece of battered sheet metal on the floor became a harsh, distorted, percussive din as the microphone gave it voice, her movements magnified a hundredfold. An electric guitar screamed and bellowed as its strings were attacked by a cordless drill, its battery inserted like the magazine of a pistol, it was loaded and dangerous.

Microphones on stands became targets of howls and grunts, the many lights of the many audio effects units blazing and flashing as they desperately tried to keep up.

I had initially thought that this performance was pure improvisation on the part of each individual, and while that may well have been true in terms of the measured or frenzied movements of each dancer, there was a sense of ensemble, a sense of purpose.

A dancer took a microphone, and striding confidently around the fringe of madness informed us that today was the first day of the rest of our lives. "The will of the people, and people always will", she said.

It was interesting to note that this performance was directed by the 2022 Associate Artist, Tobiah Booth-Remmers. There was no mention of a choreographer.

The performers entered and left the main performance space whenever they wanted to, it seemed, sometimes bringing objects from the foyer, and sometimes removing them in random acts of redistribution and, as the noise diminished and the number of dancers in the main space reduced, I realised that the performance was over and, as I rose to leave, there were smatterings of uncertain applause as a guitar quietly wept its distorted lament while swinging from a frame.

As I re-entered the foyer, the performers were in a group at the bar, presumably enjoying the beverage that they had earlier recommended, while the performance space was still filled with an audience, uncertain of their next move.

The dancers paused in their conversations to quietly acknowledge my mimed applause as I headed out to the street.

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