By Erica Brennan
Prime: Orderly – Riverside Theatre’s, Parramatta
Prime: Orderly is a new dance work in two halves. It is the culmination and distillation of chorographer Dean Walsh two year fellowship researches into sub-scapes and human-animal movement studies. A subtle and rich new chorographic language that draws on Walshes 23 years experience as a dancer and transcends this virtuosity by applying a humours touch to its subject matter. Prime: Orderly is an experience to be immersed in, not a story to be followed or observe and draw conclusions from. It flicks between moments of pedestrian conversations to deep, raw, primal gestures, and effortlessly back again. Creating a movement score I have never seen in a dance work before. A brave and inspiring piece of performance.
I was hooked from the first moment I walked in. Perhaps empathising a little too much with the poor alien like creature that greeted us centre stage as we entered. It was a puppet, part human, part hammer head shark, strung up by large fish hooks, ready for an experiment or a tourist photograph. Adding to the uncomfortableness and feeling of being trapped is a hooded sweat-suited figure watching you as you try and sneak past to take your seat. These opening Moments of Prime: Orderly thrust you headfirst into a charged exciting space. You certainly don’t skink dreamily into a world. No. You are dropped in and rendered somewhat speechless by its cruel beauty and detail. ‘Am I an intruder?’ I asked myself. ‘Oh no that hooded thug is going to do something aweful to the puppet and terrify me!’ I think and I cross my arms in front of myself protectively. Yet I can’t take my eyes of the scene before me and my curiosity is rewarded.
All aspects of this production from lights and sound , to performers and the design, work seamlessly together to keep you inside the piece at all time. You are never quite sure of where you are inside it but it certainly never lets you miss a beat or step outside and wonder about your shopping list for tomorrow. The opening moments are bizarre, sci-fi bizarre! With fish hooks being cut off the our shark specimen and our hooded figure stripping off to reveal a faceless, featureless blue uni-tarded man underneath. This blue man (Dean Walsh) stops his suspicious wanderings occasionally and treats us to a clownish lecture on his first shark sighing while surfing. The images given to us are thrust against each other odlly and the images themselves are foreign. However as a whole Prime: Ordley is completely recognisable and contemporary in its invocation of fear and suspicion. The first half finishes with a guest speaker who is somehow associated with the subject matter of marine life. Tonight it is Dr Anthony Granville Marnie biologist and shark specialist who speaks about his relationship to these magnificent creatures.
The second half pushes further into the pedestrian and everydayness of movement and our relationship to the ocean and yet goes deeper. A piece structured over the unfolding of a 1 hour scuba dive as an audience member you get lost in the incredible effort and importance of breathing. Balloons are blown up and lead the performers around the space. They leap and roll and judder into animal movements before walking and talking in conversationally about their latest dive. The performers breathe and breathe and breathe, taking it far too seriously before surprising us all and booming into microphone the infamous ‘Luke. I am your father.’ The audience laugh in relief and we enjoy watching them pull apart the coral shaped set, scrunch it up and throw it into a net with little skill (they kept missing – which was great). Then we stopped laughing when suddenly struck by the fact that this could be our oceans, our coral our marine life we are destroying so carelessly.
A powerful, visceral experience by a truly skilled and informed practitioner. I’m still thinking about it, still excited by it. Keep an eye on Dean Walsh and get to his work. You won’t be sorry.