Carnally, where do we go from here…
Burn International @ Bakehouse Theatre – Main Stage
9:00pm, Mon 27 Feb 2012
I mean, …
Drawn to this performance by an intriguingly obtuse précis – “a surreal and visceral landscape of flesh, feathers, demons, ghosts, and Gods face-off in an explosive collision between modern life and primal being” – I left the Bakehouse after nearly an hour with a big, stupid grin on my face… and porridge for brains.
Because Carnally is a complete, unashamed, brain-fuck.
And it’s almost completely impossible to describe, other than to say that it’s physical theatre. Or, maybe, super-abstract dance.
The set is dominated by a… giant white squidy thing with spermy overtones, which sits at the back of the stage and ominously stretches forward, occasionally throbbing with colour. In front… around… inside this thing roam three performers, who move and stretch and pronounce whilst wearing costumes of colour and texture and imagination.
Now – reading the above sentence back is difficult and messy… but it makes perfect sense if you’ve seen the show.
But I digress.
The opening dialogue overlays itself, upping the confusion; initially, Rob Hughes’ ambient and organic moodscapes run a little hot over the speakers, drowning out the text somewhat. Not that it matters: when clarity returns, you’re awash in words that have the over-enthusiastic literacy of a noble thesis, but I get the feeling – and let me impress upon you that understanding is probably not an option – that the performance depicts the rise and fall of an evolutionary cycle over four distinct “chapters”, each with their own visual style and tone.
The mix of dance and spoken word is utterly intoxicating. As a stand-alone dance piece, it’s genuinely exciting – writer and director Branden Christine is absolutely stunning, commanding your attention with a sense of power and control and presence. Early on, Sam Wang and Leah Landau (who also doubles as choreographer) flank Christine with bizarre embryonic jerky actions; there’s an incredible piece later where the three performers wear masks on the sides of their faces, strutting across the stage in a way that befuddles the eye. And the red-rope sequence during the slavery bit? The manner in which the light caught the rope left no ambiguity.
Look – I have no idea what the fuck was going on here. But I don’t care – it’s a visual and aural feast, with sights and words jumbling a mind that’s all to pleased to let them in. And I’m so happy that this show exists… because sometimes that sort of confusion presents the best experiences.
And this, most certainly, was one of my best experiences of 2012.