“What I need is perspective,” says Offred, in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. “The illusion of depth, created by a frame, the arrangement of shapes on a flat surface. Perspective is necessary. Otherwise there are only two dimensions.”
Life can feel somewhat two-dimensional in straitened times, and the arts, in its various forms, can provide the portals needed to experience a more expansive view of the world. Award-winning Adelaide company Restless Dance Theatre has done this many times over in the light of different themes, through honest and emotive performances by its excellent company of dancers, who are with and without disability.
Shifting Perspectives achieves this in spades, with artistic director Michelle Ryan’s and concept and lighting designer Matthew Adey’s (House of Vnholy) judicious use of shifting light, immersive soundscapes, spinning mirrors and the agencies of its excellent dancers Darcy Carpenter, Jianna Georgiou, Michael Hodyl, Bhodi Hudson, Alexis Luke, Madalene Macera, Michael Noble and Charlie Wilkins.
Front-of-house performer Astrid Pill and some of the dancers greet audience members stepping into the darkened, curtained-off vestibule at the entrance of the Queen’s Theatre, offering soft white gloves to wear. Dancers projected in otherworldly light onto great hanging backdrops gaze down upon the arrivals, gesturing in slow-motion, god-like, in a manner reminiscent of a Bill Viola video installation.
A series of mirrored steles on a dais guard the entrance, like statues guarding a futuristic temple. The portentous weight of this in-between space reflects Adey’s past involvement with Dark Mofo, and this, together with the donning of white gloves and the theatrical haze blurring the edges of solidity, feel like preparations for a ritual.
A disembodied voice instructs audience members to find a hand to hold and a light to follow, and performers with handheld white lights guide us into the dark and cavernous interior. Hands linked, we wend and wind through the haze around the square formation of ethereally lit mirrored steles occupying the centre of the space until we are led on to the dais to move, play and explore the spaces between the multitude of reflections.
We are invited to spin the moving mirrors with our gloved hands, the four sides revealing surprising new perspectives as they turn, at times aligning to present infinite hallways of light, other times revealing our own reflections or those of others who are observing while being unknowingly observed.
The dancers’ performance begins once we are asked to step off the dais to watch; we are told that we are free to wander, to observe the changing perspectives while remembering that we, too, are being observed. Wearing vibrant shades of ocean, sky and forest in contemporary costumes designed by Renate Henschke, the dancers interact with one another in dreamy slow motion, or in a rush of dynamism in parallel with the interplay of light and dark, and the atmospheric soundscapes.
Created by Sascha Budimski, the immersive sound alternates between soft and ethereal harmonies that lift and lighten, and visceral, body-vibrating industrial bass lines that ground us. Some audience members sit static while others wander, choosing their own shifting viewpoints as the spinning, mirrored steles glance off the light, offering changing reflections of colour, of other audience members, of dancers in different poses and attitudes of movement, creating illusions of distance and otherworldliness.
The ritualistic, temple-like aura, the immersive setting of light and sound, the blurring of boundaries between observers and the observed make the 45-minute performance feel beyond the bounds of time. The perfect Illuminate Adelaide event, Shifting Perspectives provides an escape into an alternative space where the two dimensional expands into three, perhaps even more, providing the respite needed in these speeded-up, conflicted days. Highly recommended.
Restless Dance Theatre’s Shifting Perspectives is being presented at the Queen’s Theatre until July 30 as part of Illuminate Adelaide. Read more Illuminate Adelaide reviews and stories here.
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