Sunday, April 13, 2014

Junk Ensemble, 'The Falling Song': These Brittle Men

The male psyche is in steep descent in Junk Ensemble's dance production, and falling flat on your face seems inevitable. Photo: Ewa Figaszewska.

Pavilion Theatre
Apr 10

My review of The Falling Song by Jessica and Megan Kennedy coming up just as soon as I do some cloud choreography ...

When a dancer first ascends the gnarled ladders of Aedín Cosgrove's precarious set for The Falling Song, it's obvious what happens next: a plummet from the top rung onto the mattresses placed below. Yet, when Eddie Kay takes that foreseen dive it still elicits gasps from the audience. 

It goes to show that Jessica and Megan Kennedy don't flinch as choreographers of Junk Ensemble, instilling a space with a danger of death drops and bruising choreography that sets male dancers grappling and locking horns, sometimes in the vicinity of a bobbing children's choir. 

Not to say that the Kennedys' sensitivity towards the opposite sex envisions little more than a macho-fest. Falling perilously in and out of love is the suave Jesse Kovarsky, a ruffled balladeer singing a song of heartbreak, and later gliding in blue spangled boots, glittering with self-possession. 

Such composure isn't commonplace. When Carl Harrison takes a magnifying glass up to his mouth it heightens his inaudible whispers, bringing into focus a bigger image of frustrated communication. Consider this alongside the leaps from the ladders and the undertone of suicide becomes unavoidable. 

Darkness and light, violence and innocence are weighed against each other with skewed humour. The tactless thud with which Omar Gordon face-plants a blindfolded child into a mattress is equally funny as it is unsettling. Eddie Kay is propelled fearlessly when he performs the high jump but his transformation into a gushing child having hit his head can suggest a trauma from the playground with long-term consequences. 

Its quality is raw. Even alchemical musician George Higgs conjures a rumbling score penned by Denis Clohessy out of the metals of cans, bells and a bicycle spoke. 

Physicality is pushed to the verge of injury, as The Falling Song grabs hold of something primal on the way down. The stage becomes bombarded with apples, a nod to Newton perhaps, a discovery definitely: few companies have the nerve to fall flat on their face in the advance of their subject. What is salvaged is something instinctual rather than intellectual: the interiors of a masculinity easily pushed over the edge. 

What did everybody else think?

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