Friday, 12 October 2012

Never Did Me Any Harm, Oct 11, 2012 ****

By Force Majeure and Sydney Theatre Company, by Melbourne Festival
MTC Sumner Theatre, Oct 9 to 13, 2012
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Oct 11, 2012
Version of this review published in Herald Sun on Sun, Oct 14, 2012

NEVER DID ME ANY HARM is a peculiar melding of contemporary dance with word-based theatre, is based on real interviews with parents about their attitudes to parenting and to their children.

Director, Kate Champion, weaves personal stories and observations together with abstract physicalisation in an episodic structure that is often charming and warm, with a high recognition factor for parents in the audience.

The stage, an Australian backyard, is intermittently transformed by Ben Cobham’s complex and mind-bending lighting, into a surreal, non-literal place that reflects and exaggerates a parent’s rage or confusion, love or desperation.

One early scene is an inspired collision of abstract movement and voice when two dancers physicalise a recorded dialogue between two parents.

In another dynamic, physical encounter, a father interacts with his daughter, at first playfully, but finally vents his frustration by shaking her while startled witnesses observe. (Shades of Tsiolkas’ novel The Slap).

In addition to recorded, voice-over dialogue, there are several compelling monologues performed live, including Catherine McClements’ distressing narrative as a mother who discovers her teenage daughter’s precocious, sexual activities when she reads her diary.

Crowley performs an impassioned diatribe describing his anger and despair about the way in which children are cosseted and indulged these days, and how education is obsessively child-centred.

Snippets and quotes from parents revealing their fears, idiosyncrasies and the challenges of parenthood in a modern world, elicit the laughter of identification from adults in the audience.

The balance of the physical with the verbal is not perfect, and the parents depicted are relentlessly middle class, but there are several enchanting moments in this production.

By Kate Herbert

Creative Team includes:
 Director, Kate Champion; Choreography, The Company; Set & Lighting, Ben Cobham; Composer, Max Lyandvert
Cast includes:
 Catherine McClements, Tracy Mann, Vincent Crowley, Alan Flower, Marlo Benjamin, Sarah Jane Howard, Josh Mu

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