On The Shoulders Of Giants
Disco Danger Productions @ Gluttony – Pig Tales
5:40pm, Fri 15 Feb 2013
It’s the opening night of the Fringe and, whilst in previous years I would’ve avoided the Garden end of town on this evening, I couldn’t structure a satisfying collection of shows that lay west of King William Street; as a result, I bit the bullet and plotted an all-Garden, all-Gluttony assault. And, with a short run offering limited opportunities, On The Shoulders Of Giants got to be the first cab off the rank.
Unfortunately, the heat (and pending parade) had thinned out the Gluttony lingerers somewhat, and the handful that were around seemed to be all attending another show. So when it came time to crowd into the (seemingly) largest venue at Gluttony, it was disappointing to discover that there were two of us waiting for entry. And the other person elected to sit in the the sixth row; I gestured her forward to the front, promising that neither I – nor the performers, who were already onstage holding static poses – would bite. (A third person arrived slightly late, but only committed to the second row.)
It was bloody hot inside the Pig Tales tent, and I was thankful for the water I’d carried with me; the fans that were trying to move air around the venue did little more than make noise, and I was concerned with how the dancers were going to survive the performance. The four dancers – three women, one man – were accompanied onstage by singer/guitarist Gareth Jay, who used a sampler to create complex multilayer guitar textures for the dancers to perform on.
Once Jay creates a groove, the dancers move into action: and theirs was a dance of reaches and poses, of maintaining the form. The dancers often paired up in mirrored movements across the stage, and an element of acrobatics seeped in – Ben Cole and Sarah Ryan were the obvious strong bodies, with lifts and balances adding a sense of spectacle to proceedings.
Then Jay created a quieter, gentler backdrop, and the dancers started injecting short monologues whilst the others engaged with each other, drew cute sketches on blackboards, or just took a break from the heat; the stories told revolve around family, and it’s all very sweet, very heartfelt. Whether they’re tales of grumpy grandpas, or of a woman watching her mother and daughter feed each other blueberries over Skype, they’re all stories that were sourced from people in Bathurst – the result being a sentimental melding of movement, word, and music.
Sure, some of the acrobatic lifts went awry, but the lighter performers (Lauren Gemmell and Lamai Thompson-Long) handled the mistakes with grace; it’s only the break in synchrony that gives them away. And sure, some of the monologues were all but drowned out by the fans vainly trying to keep things cool. But it was stiflingly hot, and as the performance ended, our applause only broke in order to instruct the dancers to get offstage and have a drink.
I talked to Jay after the performance, and he told me he used up to thirteen tracks in his musical loops, layering guitar and vocal lines and singing over the top to create a rich score… and Gemmell was an absolute delight to chat with the next day (as I spotted her lugging Jay’s guitars!). And I assured her that I very much enjoyed On The Shoulders Of Giants; despite bordering on twee, the overall mood of the performance was wonderfully honest and heartfelt.