Arts House, North Melbourne
Reviewed March 16
Lucy Guerin’s latest show, Flux Job, was created in fits and starts. Sandwiched between Melbourne’s lockdowns and personal tragedies, the work was birthed on shaky ground. These forces and their attendant challenges have unavoidably shaped the project; serving as creative fodder for Guerin and her team to rationalise the events of the last two years.
Much like its creation, Flux Job is a fractured experience for the viewer. In collaboration with theatre-maker Adena Jacobs, Guerin has pieced together a collage of choreographic structures and disjointed texts that oscillate between themes of freefall devastation and inertia, isolation and global collapse. Sombreness, too, pervades. And while some moments are compelling and dramaturgically accomplished, the work as a whole seems unfocused.
We meet the dancers one by one – Lilian Steiner, Geoffrey Watson, Amber McCartney and finally Tra Mi Dinh – in states of hyper-isolation: muttering indiscernibly to themselves and feverishly working through quiet passages of improvised movement. Their bodies, confined to single-coloured squares of roaming light (design by Paul Lim), drift through the hazy darkness, occasionally breaching the crisply demarcated boundaries or trespassing on another’s square to create a multicoloured exchange.
The rhythms of convergence and detachment are cleverly shaped by Jethro Woodward’s roving sound design, which plays from concealed speakers on the dancers’ bodies. Subject to the chance directionality of the dancers’ movement, the brooding hums and puttering of Woodward’s composition disorientate our senses. Synchronised collapses and sudden jolts – both sonic and choreographic – punctuate the space, a communalised reminder of some impending, unspecified threat that looms large.
That “devastating event”, as the program note tells us, soon arrives and the work shifts several gears. Idiosyncratic improvisation gives way to long passages of synchronised set material featuring flung limbs and high kicks paired with gestural arm phrases and quirky repetitions. There are some suggestive images here – rhythmic sobbing in the fetal position, a handshake in a semicircular formation as if to commence a satanic ritual, and a series of equestrian-like trots in unison – but this vast breadth of movement means the vocabulary quickly loses coherency. The choreography’s rapid shifts in tone and scale – a long held skill of Guerin’s – are more jarring than beguiling.
Further gear shifts follow as the dancers wheel out a long table of vanity mirrors and begin to apply “ageing” makeup. It’s a compelling tableau but one that is sold short by the accompanying dialogue. The conversational banter, seemingly learnt back from recordings of anecdotes in the rehearsal room and recited with minimal dramatic direction or conviction, is not nearly as profound as the themes the creators are trying to explore. The scene falls short of the mark, never extending beyond the self-referential or locating its objective, and ultimately unable to land the dramatic punch the work needs.
Making a dance show about communal anxieties and personal reckoning in times of epochal upheaval is a challenge. Guerin and Jacobs no doubt have the skills to do so, but Flux Job doesn’t quite get there. There are glimpses of clever ideas – aided significantly by elements of lighting and sound – but the big topics of the day, which the work sets out to conquer, remain out of reach.
– RHYS RYAN
All photos above are by Sarah Walker.
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