Only Chrissie Parrott could make a success of the multi-layered, darkly comical confection that is Façade, writes Rita Clarke.
Façade, Co3 Contemporary Dance
Liberty Theatre, 14 June 2033
Façade is the brainchild of the much lauded, and awarded artist Chrissie Parrott AO, created as part of Co3 Contemporary Dance’s IN.RESIDENCE program. Parrott has always been one to see the dark humour in life and its absurdities and Façade is a wicked reflection of this.
Its outlandish characters flood the stage posturing and spouting nonsense, revelling in each others’ attire and generally behaving badly. The Baroque styling of huge wigs and voluminous crinolines seem, as Parrott intended, to reflect the excessive importance placed today on vanity, the body, fake news and celebrity. It occurred to me whilst watching Donald Trump on the news recently, with his pout and patrician-like posture, that I would surely see his ilk in Façade – and I certainly did. He missed his era.
Façade is performed in the Liberty Theatre, closed in 1997 and reopened in 2022 as a performance space for Perth Festival. In its bare, gutted state the cavernous space still has grandeur despite its scruffy walls and vast roof of exposed iron-bars.
Apart from a narrow, raised dais, the main performance area is at floor level, framed by a wide portal swathed in dark red velvet cloth and climbing flowers. On the dais sit a motley of debauched personages dressed to the hilt in red velvet or taffeta and adorned with the fluffy bits and bobs so beloved of the Baroque era.
Hung on high are a dozen or so glass chandeliers. Around the stage stand cut-out life-sized figures which are later used in a funny vaudevillian skit featuring Paul Rowe, audaciously adept in his occasional role as master of ceremonies.
The expansive list of recorded music and the live music, selected by Matthew Cellan Jones in consultation with Parrott, is alluring; court dance music from France in the time of Lully and, for voice, Scarlatti, Handel and Marais, many sung exquisitely by Ronald MacQueen. Jones and Krista Low play ancient instruments with astonishingly good technique.
The performers – Claudia Alessi, Katy Hall, Talitha Maslin, Stefan Karlsson, Matthew Morris, Georgia Van Gils, Russell Thorpe, Rowe and MacQueen – are required to turn their hand to any manner of style, and are outstanding. Hall, in clownish costume with a hidden sausage, and Rowe, in a long dress and curly shower cap, do a vaudeville turn in a Cockney accent to be proud of. Karlsson, Morris and Thorpe collude hilariously in many skits, setting the tone at the outset with Karlsson (in a curly blond wig) teaching the others Gallic courtly moves in pretty good French.
One of the highlights of the evening is the Deco Dance set to J.S.Bach’s Sonata in C Major, BWV 530: II, remixed rather irreverently (but wonderfully) with sound effects by Parrott. Dancers dressed in voluminous white crinolines (made whiter by Andrew Portwine’s effective lighting) twirl robotically at low speed to Bach interspersed with the sound of a clock being constantly wound up. They end up beneath the skirts looking like dobs of meringue.
Another highlight is the brilliance of Maslin, Van Gils and Alessi who dance together and in solos to choreography quintessentially Parrott’s, set to Marin Marais Pieces for Viola. It is dramatically intense, graceful and has a lucid eloquence that is utterly captivating.
Only Parrott could think to handle a piece like Façade, with its combination of many arts forms – circus, vaudeville, contemporary ballet, opera, pantomime – and its classical and burlesque overtones, and make it work. And it’s her Last (mainstage) Hurrah, so if you can get tickets don’t miss it.
Pictured top: Stefan Karlsson teaches Gallic courtly moves in pretty good French. Photo: Stefan Gosatti
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