A new dance collective draw their audience into the world of a child’s imagination in their debut show, and Rosalind Appleby is entranced.
Dreams of a Lonely Planet, Flying Bicycle Collective ·
Rehearsal Room 1, State Theatre Centre, 21 January 2022 ·
He wears red pyjamas, drags a blanket and looks sleepy.
But he also has a superhero insignia painted on his face and with a flick the blanket becomes a cape, his arm is outstretched and he’s flying into space.
Meet the 12-year-old Boy in Dreams of a Lonely Planet, whose adventures unfold in a dreamy 30 minutes, conjured with exquisite detail by three dancers and a composer. His adventures are the kind that don’t make sense in words, but are utterly relatable to anyone who can remember a dream or a session of particularly satisfying imaginary play as a kid.
Isabelle Leclezio and Estelle Brown, the dancers behind the new Flying Bicycle Collective, obviously do remember such moments and recreate them with playful wonder. They have teamed up with dancer Bernadette Lewis and composer Sophia Hansen-Knarhoi, whose luscious and intimate musical score is intrinsic to the show.
Hansen-Knarhoi is also the character of the Moon and her percussion playing and naturalistic electronic soundscape set the opening scene. A star dangles jauntily, until it is caught by the Boy, whose inquisitive naivety is portrayed by Leclezio with her long lithe legs and intricate expressions.
Boy meets two playmates: Lewis, who dances with compact, joyful precision, and Brown who is more poetic, with malleable torso and limbs revealing a timid character. Together they march into a world of imaginary play, to the accompaniment of a snare drum and a whistled tune.
To the delight of the children in the audience, the next “scene” (do dreams have scenes or are they just instant segues?) is a birthday party, complete with dance club music, streamers, a birthday cake and cutlery pistols – I just love these whimsical details! Hansen-Knarhoi serenades us with a ukulele in a quiet interlude.
Parts of the story are told using shadow puppets or narrated in a voice over. But it is the dancing and the soundtrack that reveal the most. There’s so much to take in it makes me want to watch it all again.
My only (tiny) quibble is that the boy in the story is characterised more like a six-year-old than a 12-year-old. Make believe shooting games and superhero dress-ups are more the realm of prepubescent boys.
Otherwise, this is a very sophisticated foray into children’s theatre, devised by performers who know how to draw an audience (young and old) into a place of rapturous, wide-eyed wonder. Keep an eye out for Flying Bicycle Collective because these guys, in their debut show, have already discovered the magic formula for children’s theatre.
Pictured top: Sophia Hansen-Knarhoi’s percussion is an intrinsic part of the performance. Photo by Minni Karamfiles.
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