Returning to the Baxter Flipside Theatre, choreographer Ananda Fuchs and composer Tebogo Monnakgotla present their latest collaboration – part of a project which seeks to convey, through music and dance, the human aspect of economic growth.
Last year’s dramatic production of I Hit The Ground Running portrayed the individual experience of youth and unemployment. Fuchs and Monnakgotla now follow that up by asking what may lie ahead. The concept and idea for Struck Silent was nurtured through stories, opinions and feelings that materialized from meetings with groups of pensioners from Cape Town and Eskilstuna, in Sweden. “In this production we are looking at global economy and its effect on the individual, with a specific focus on senior citizens”, says Fuchs.
A dance performance about aging and economic growth? Those are some challenging themes to translate into dance, and even with the programme notes, pretty hard for an audience to decipher.
As the audience members enter the theatre, they cross the stage between a TV playing a video clip of I Hit The Ground Running, and the three dancers sitting utterly still in the front row of the audience – a reference to past, present and potential for the future.
The three Swedish musicians – Asa Karlberg on flute, Elemér Lavotha on cello and Johnny Axelsson on percussion – are on stage throughout the performance with some brief moments of interaction with the dancers. Composer Tebogo Monnakgotla has created a score of classical sounds rather than actual melodies. The sound creates a mystical ambience especially with the use of interesting percussion instruments but the music and movement choreography does always gel. The dancers move through the sound phrases creating an element of uncertainty.
Fuchs’ choreography is lyrical, slick and smooth. The dancers continuously push and receive each other’s weight creating moments of physical contact and affection. Swedish dancer Gunilla Hammar, the protagonist character in the production, moves with finesse, effortlessly creating beautiful lines. An emotional and highly expressive dancer, her skill is all the more remarkable for her age (she will be celebrating her 51st brirthday during the run). The relationship between Hammar and the two younger dancers, Shaun Oelf and Thabisa Dinga, is ambiguous. There are moments in which Hammar embodies a motherly figure, both in a loving and a scolding way, but others where she transforms into a lover.
Creative and interesting ideas include the use of projected shadows, drawers, boxes and multimedia effects. The same images and video footage on the small mobile screen are projected on a framed cyclorama at the back of the stage. In such an intimate space the number of theatrical elements tips towards the chaotic, lacking connections to the themes.
The powerful tool of collaboration is clear throughout the show and each individual element is innovative on its own but the production struggles to maintain its own weight for lack of stronger connections. Unsure of what the intention was, the audience was left uncertain and confused.
Struck Silent runs at the Baxter Flipside Theatre until 13 September.