As a rule, double and triple bills perform less well at the box office than the 2 or 3 act traditional story ballets. This is surprising because they can, if programmed well, offer something for every taste. Queensland Ballet’s triple bill, “Trilogy”, is such a program, where, although not every work appealed equally, you left feeling satisfied.
The opening work, Jack Lister’s A Brief Nostalgia, had its world premiere with the Birmingham Royal Ballet in 2019 – Covid delaying its premiere here. It is a brooding, hypnotic work of dark overtones, somewhat belying Lister’s rather wistful and poetic program notes.
In a set designed by Thomas Mika, concrete coloured, abstractly placed walls line and cross the stage, framing movement for six women and six men of solos, duets and groups delineated by changes to the urgent and percussive score (Tom Harrold), and the lighting. Costumes, also by Mika, are similarly grey – tights for the otherwise bare-chested men, and dresses for the women who dance en pointe, their hair flying loose.
Effective moments of Alexander Berlage’s monochromatic lighting design casts shadows of the dancers onto the walls, but overall, the work was under lit, making individual identification of the dancers difficult.
A duet of intertwining lifts highlights the work’s final moments as the walls rise off the stage covered now by low fog, and, evoking the nostalgic program notes’ mention of the "aromatic petrichor", the sound of falling rain.
In sharp contrast, Christopher Bruce’s 1991 classic, Rooster, an electrifying celebration of the Rolling Stones music of the 1960s, is full of humour, infectious energy and toe-tapping tunes, including favourites "Lady Jane", "As Tears Go By", "Ruby Tuesday", and of course the opening number, "Little Red Rooster".
A work for five men, and five women – the men, snake-hipped in the sharp suits and wide ties of the 1960s, and the women, strong and sassy, in short black dresses, with red details – it also casts an ironic look at the male chauvinism of the times. Preening and strutting, the "rooster walk" of extended leading leg, with a forward thrusting head, becomes a repeated motif for the men.
Moments of reflection are provided in a yearning solo by Sophie Zoricic, in a red full, skirted dress, long hair flying. Otherwise, the movement is tight, precisely tied to the detail of the music, and overall performed with crisp athleticism and great energy by the QB dancers.
My Brilliant Career, the much anticipated new work by Cathy Marston, ended the evening’s program. It didn’t disappoint.
On a stage bathed in warm light evoking the Australian countryside, with dancers in costumes of pastels and creams, the opening moments were captivating.
The set design (David Fleischer) is simple but clearly evoking place, with a cleverly designed set piece that is split and manoeuvred by the cast into various positions to create the different inside and outside settings of the story. The warmth of the outback sun was almost tangible in Paul Jackson’s lighting design, where the bare cyc became the outback sky fading from azure blue to flaming sunset.
The main protagonist of the original Miles Franklin story, Sybylla, is cleverly portrayed here as two conflicting aspects of her psyche, Syb and Bylla, danced by Mia Heathcote and Laura Toser respectively. Heathcote is the more contentedly romantic side to the character, while Toser represents her conflicting ambition for more. With movement that was both innovative and clearly articulated by both dancers, believing the two dancers were the one character took little stretch of the imagination.
Other characters inhabited the periphery of the story, adding context: Zoricic here as the harassed mother of Sybylla and her many siblings, Yanela Piñera as her kindly grandmother, and Victor Estévez convincing as Harry, the love interest. A cleverly contrived pas de trois by Heathcote, Toser and Estévez of flirtatious longing and rejection, provided the work’s penultimate highlights.
Although My Brilliant Career is very much an intimate, character-driven work, there were also rousing toe-tapping moments of pure dance, when the company came together in a bush dance. And successfully underpinning the whole work was the original and most evocative score by Matthew Hindson.
– DENISE RICHARDSON
'Trilogy' continues until June 25.