Saturday, 26 June 1999

Body: Celebration of the Machine, 26 June 1999

By Amanda Owen
at La Mama until July 11, 1999
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Watching an acrobat in action makes one marvel at the human body. But even a skilled acrobat such as Amanda Owen is still astonished at the complex workings of this delicate mechanism of flesh and bone.

Amanda Owen, with director, Donna Jackson, has created Body: Celebration of the Machine for this very reason. Owen employs the external workings of the body to demonstrate and celebrate the inner operations.

The body she explores through physical theatre is a living, feeling, pleasure-seeking machine. It is the vulnerable and the generative machine.- which breathes, hurts, yawns, digests and sleeps. It even gives birth and dies when it runs out of fuel - or time.

Owen's own body is a fine specimen of highly trained muscle. She wheels, twists, somersaults and catapults her way through the tiny La Mama space. In spite of the confined space, they have even managed to rig some circus suspension gear from the roof.

The design is almost entirely composed of slides projected by three projectors onto the rear wall. They comprise beautifully photographed (Ponch Hawkes) images of faces and bodies as well as stylish graphics (Lin Tobias) of skeletons and machines accompanied by text.

The show is not entirely phsyical theatre. Owen tells stories about family, pregnancy, injury. One is about her mum's hip replacement told graphically through shadow puppets. She ocasionally plays characters, some of which are actually drawn onto intimate parts of her body with texta pen.

These body characters are part of a witty song, with music by Kim Baston, which is performed as a miniature puppet show behind little curtained stages.

The most hilarious section of the show is the story of body excreta told through "interpretive dance". Being English, Owen was never allowed to discuss 'emissions' so euphemisms were her only option.

Owen is warm, charming and a highly skilled physical performer. She spent 15 years working in circuses and physical theatre companies in Europe until she came to Australia in 1993 in Trestle Theatre's State of Bewilderment that was a staged version of Leunig cartoons.

There are some moments of visual poetry such as the final rebirth scene an there is some quirky use of magician's illusion one of which depicts gruesome self-mutilation.

This is an unusual and clever show that is worth a look.

By Kate Herbert  

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