Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, 27 July
The circular space is circumscribed by floor level white lights. A grey box—a console of some sort, perhaps—sits enigmatically in the middle. Dressed in colour coded pants and tops, the three performers, Grey, White and Black, walk on. Grey places some sort of checker or control on the console, the soundtrack begins, and they start to walk in a circular pattern around the box. As the music speeds up, they break into a jog. A voice-over from a TV Space launch suggests that there may be intergalactic or astronautical connections between the console and the orbiting dancers.
Gradually Grey (Vincent Crowley) assumes control of the console and consequently the other two. By placing tokens on the console, he appears to manipulate both the music and the lighting, although whether this is a theatrical illusion is hard to tell. Through wittily allusive commentary laced with rhetorical questions Grey lets us know what White (Luke Smiles) and Black (Gabrielle Nankivell) are like. White is clearly something of a control freak, as his tight, neat movements, always geometric and precise, indicate. Nothing can alter his predictable path across the cosmos. Black, on the other hand, is a force of nature unleashed. Nankivell’s explosive, fluid movement as she swirls and leaps gives the impression of something untameable, a free-wheeling comet in the little universe on stage. Is there any possibility of these two connecting?
Benjamin Cisterne’s ingenious lighting design is pivotal to the work as it unfolds. Down spots of powerful white light plot out the trajectories of the three dancers, whilst occasional washes of bright colour alter the mood according to the narrative arc. Delivering extensive text, written in conjunction with Nankivell and dramaturg Will O’Mahony, Crowley’s wry, understated delivery was masterful. Monologues about light and colour, space, science and facts, are obliquely comic reflections, not only on the other two, but on his own position as commentator and "expert". As well as performing in the work, Luke Smiles, a long-term collaborator of Nankivell’s, has contributed the sound design, which is a fast-changing melange of sci-fi soundtrack, ticking clocks, space launch countdowns, and eighties tunes.
Black and White are opposites, so naturally they are attracted to each other, and several duets in which they explore the possibility of relationship are nicely structured to contrast their personalities. Black threads herself through the tight angles created by White, while Grey both commentates on the action and at times inserts himself into their duets. The relationship appears to break down and Black’s head shakes uncontrollably: she seems broken, agitated. Grey consoles her, rolling over her and supporting her. The ending is as enigmatic as the beginning. Grey extracts many plastic toys from inside the console and places them around the space as the others orbit off stage.
Split Second Heroes is an inventive, humorous and wry work that keep the audience’s attention from beginning to end. Superbly performed by this local choreographer and her very accomplished cast of two, it is at once entertaining and thought-provoking.
Top: "Black threads herself through the tight angles created by White, while Grey both commentates on the action and at times inserts himself into their duets." Photo: Chris Herzfeld, Camlight Productions.