Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Desert Island Dances, Oct 8, 2008 ****

Desert Island Dances 
By Wendy Houston with John Avery
Fairfax Theatre, Victorian Arts Centre, 9-13 Oct, 2008
Melbourne International Arts Festival
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Oct 9, 2008

Wendy Houston’s Desert Island Dances is a guileless, engaging and funny stroll around Houston’s eccentric blend of movement and dialogue. Houston chats directly to us. Her performance style is so natural and relaxed that it feels conversational. It has the open-ended quality of improvisation.

Houston is warm, charming and her humour arises from her childlike playfulness as well as her ironic perspective on creativity, imagination and artistic endeavour. There are goofy moments when she swathes herself in cloth, bangs her head and sees stars or when she scuttles about inside a wooden chest or draws a chalk graph representing the interest level of the audience.

Others moments are gently philosophical such as when she ponders notions of presence and absence or wandering attention. John Avery’s music and sound adds comical and poignant layers to the work.

She dresses casually and comfortably and moves effortlessly demonstrating her loose physicality. Her stage design is created on the run as she sketches with white chalk a palm tree, a boat, a star-filled sky or a circle on the floor.

It is as if we are listening to a friend muse, witnessing her as she ambles around her home, offering gems of homespun philosophy and mildly self-deprecating jibes. Houston is a treat.

Kate Herbert

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