SA choreographer and director Lina Limosani has created a beautiful and eerie work centred on a mythical Malaysian character who haunts an otherwise conservative and controlled woman.
The Pontianak, as the female vampire ghost is known, is said to have died at childbirth; she is demonic, but also tragic.
In A Delicate Situation, which premiered at the Adelaide Festival Centre’s Space Theatre, Limosani is unafraid to combine mediums. The work is an innovative combination of contemporary dance, theatre and puppetry. It is visually stunning.
The stage is set with white sheets draped over furniture. Visceral music begins the production and the auditorium lights dim. The centre sheet, pooled in the middle of the stage, begins to creep outwards like a liquid. It seems to be moving of its own accord; a technique which later becomes a feature of the performance.
Suhaili Micheline Ahmad Kamil dances within the sheet, using the shapes and shadows to intrigue and disturb the audience. The choreography is edgy and disjointed, reminiscent of zombies and skeletal horrors, rather than a modern view of vampires or ghosts.
Limosani maintains tension throughout, breaking up the intense opening with a humorous scene. This introduces Carol Wellman Kelly’s character, a wealthy woman for whom Kamil acts as an obedient servant girl. Early scenes create sympathy for Kamil’s character and an automatic dislike of Kelly’s, especially in an intriguing sequence involving the manipulation of three white foam heads, adding the dancers’ bodies to the mix in a fight for dominance. But the character dynamic shifts rapidly as Kamil becomes the creature of myth; what follows is fascinating choreography and puppetry showing her power and the descent into madness of her foil.
The puppetry is magical, with the puppeteers (Lisa Lonero and Alex Knox) completely obscured by darkness for most of the performance. In this way, Neil Jensen’s lighting design is integral to the production’s success.
With floating heads, disappearing props and performers, long prosthetic fingers, and shapes and shadows veiled by sheets, A Delicate Situation leaves the audience feeling amazed and confused. The plot and choreography is surreal, and Hardesh Singh’s sound design sets the tone for each scene.
For audience members who like to understand a production’s meaning, it may be unsatisfying. None of the highly symbolic tableaus or successions of scenes are easily deciphered, nor would they be interpreted in the same way from one person to the next. But A Delicate Situation is aesthetically stunning. Coming from an award winning cast and crew, it is certainly worth seeing for its visual appeal alone.
A Delicate Situation’s season at the Space Theatre is now finished.
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