The Tension in Moving Worlds
7 October, 2003
By Hilary Crampton
“Tense Dave is a provocative lead-in to this year's Melbourne International Arts Festival, raising all those definitional questions of where the line lies between theatre and dance. Chunky Move refuses to recognise any lines, borrowing freely from different media to create its performances.
Tense Dave is a surreal narrative, co-created by Lucy Guerin, Michael Kantor and Gideon Obarzanek. Our anti-hero, Dave, played by Brian Lucas, is a colourless and ungainly personality. He finds himself in the midst of a collection of extreme characters, observing them with mute horror, gradually becoming entangled in their fantasies.
The action occurs on a revolving platform, bisected by movable walls that expand, contract, disappear and re-appear, giving the sense of an unstable, nightmarish world.
The technology is cleverly integrated into the sense of fantasy, the creaking and whirring of the stage reminiscent of haunted house movies. In fact, film language provides structure and readily recognisable meaning, the creators taking a safe bet on our familiarity with the segues, dissolves and jump-cuts that transport us through time and space.
They employ easily identifiable genres - historical romantic melodrama, musical chorus line, dream sequence and the gratuitous violence of martial arts (complete with graphic sound effects).
Yet, a large part of the entertainment quotient is in the fact that there is no movie magic, just a chipboard set, minimal lighting and a menagerie of performers who maintain roles, with occasional digressions into general crowd behaviour.
Michelle Heaven, nightgown-clad and suicidally inclined, seems, with her diminutive physique, like a Lilliputian Lucia di Lammermoor. Brian Carbee plays the overbearing actor genius, beset by incompetent amateurs, delivering his lines with a crisply dictatorial arrogance. Stephanie Lake plays the Jane Austen heroine with suitably romantic desperation, and Luke Smiles is a loutish youth given to unprovoked violence...”