3.-2020-AWESOME-Generic-7-Sep-4-Oct.jpg
Reviews/Dance/Fringe World Festival

Charging the catwalk with feminism

31 January 2020

Two dance works, (un)written · (un)heard and FEMME, take very different approaches to telling women’s stories, Nina Levy finds.

Loading spinner

Review: 45North and Ellander Productions, (un)written · (un)heard ·
Erin Fowler, FEMME ·
Biology at Girls’ School, 29 January 2020 ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

At a glance, physical theatre works (un)written · (un)heard and FEMME are not an obvious program pairing, but the back-to-back shows are united at Fringe by a catwalk stage and a feminist perspective.

In (un)written · (un)heard, UK-based production company 45North and physical theatre ensemble Ellander Productions take on the true story of Dorothy Lawrence, a 19-year-old British journalist who disguised herself as a man and rode a bicycle to the front line of World War I to write the stories of the soldiers. Instead of being lauded for her bravery, however, she was placed under military arrest and landed up in a psychiatric hospital for most of her life.

Directed by Jessica Rose McVay, (un)written · (un)heard is based on biography but it is not a narrative work. It is composed, instead, of vignettes or fragments that serve to create a sense of person and place and allude to the parts of the story that are missing from the historical record.

Choreographed by performer Iona Kirk, the movement material is often gestural: a driving salute, the furious scratching of words on an invisible page, legs that pump unseen pedals. These repeated motifs, which stand in place of text, are seamlessly woven into choreography that billows and charges along the length of the stage.

It’s beautifully danced with courage and feeling by the cast of three. Cher Nicolette Ho, Iona Kirk and Jordan Ajadi alternate in the lead role, and the transfer of costume and character from one dancer to another is a clever reference to the concept of disguise.

Dinah Mullen’s sound design, too, is a series of fragments, a bittersweet refrain (Arvo Part’s Fratres) interspersed with soundscapes that evoke crowded city streets or the artillery-strewn vista of the front.

It all comes together to create an evocative and compelling whole.

In stark contrast to the subtle poignancy of (un)written · (un)heard, FEMME packs a powerful punch. Choreographed, written and performed by South Australian independent dance artist Erin Fowler, FEMME boldly interrogates ideas about femininity and female sexuality.

Erin Fowler in ‘Femme’. Photo: Chris Herzfeld, Camlight Productions

Initially, that interrogation is not obvious. Fowler is a sexy silhouetted figure, a Cinderella-style party-girl in too-high heels and frock who croons a Disney classic before – incongruously – going into labour, a sultry siren in boots and an LBD, a confetti-strewn bride, a leather-clad dominatrix, an insta-influencer.

So far, so many stereotypes, except that the soundtrack, which is a supercharged disco-driven mash-up, starts to be interspersed with voices – first of children, then of women, and then of men – that pull this seemingly fun work into a dark and chillingly realistic place.

Dark, but never depressing. And that’s credit to Fowler, whose stage presence is compelling, and who leads us to her last hurrah with wit and smarts.

I’ve long hoped to catch this renowned South Australian performer in action. It was worth the wait.

(un)written · (un)heard is on at Girls’ School until 9 February 2020.

FEMME runs at Girls’ School until 7 February 2020.

Pictured top is choreographer/performer Iona Kirk in ‘(un)written · (un)heard’. Photo: Jack Parker Photography

Loading spinner

Author —
Nina Levy

Nina Levy has worked for over a decade as an arts writer and critic. She co-founded Seesaw and has been co-editing the platform since it went live in August 2017. Since July 2016 Nina has also been co-editor of Dance Australia magazine. Nina loves the swings because they take her closer to the sky.

Past Articles

  • Practising poetry and dance in the Pilbara

    How many artists do you know who work in the mining sector? We tend to think of the arts and mining as mutually exclusive but regional West Australian performer and writer Yola Bakker is proving that it is possible to work across both sectors.

    Loading spinner
  • Win a double pass to ‘Measure for Measure’!

    Please note that Luna Leederville has advised that this screening has been cancelled. We will be offering a replacement competition in October – stay tuned for details!

    Loading spinner

Read Next

  • A singer holds a microphone, with a trumpet player, trombonist, pianist and drummer in the background COVID the catalyst for songs of freedom
    Reviews

    COVID the catalyst for songs of freedom

    18 September 2020

    The pandemic has had an enormous impact on jazz and Garry Lee says there was an atmosphere of joy and relief as WAYJO musicians returned to the stage last night.

    Loading spinner
    Reading time • 4 minutesMusic
  • Reading time • 5 minutesMusic
  • Brad Rimmer, Nocturne Eiger Glacier 1, 2017-2020, archival digital print, 75 x 100cm, ed. 3 The image is bleak, monochromatic. A glacier drives between two rocky outcrops. Terrible beauty in exhibition trifecta
    Reviews

    Terrible beauty in exhibition trifecta

    17 September 2020

    Craig McKeough steps into a series of unsettling and chilling worlds in neighbouring exhibitions by Merrick Belyea and Brad Rimmer at Art Collective WA, and Jacobus Capone at Moore Contemporary.

    Loading spinner
    Reading time • 6 minutesVisual Art

Leave a comment

Cleaver Street Studio

Cleaver Street Studio

Cleaver Street Studio