Thursday, March 24, 2011

Disagreeable Object

This is the third time that Disagreeable Object has had a Melbourne outing. It needs a lot more - as audiences love this tiny-capacity capsule of theatre/dance experience. With only a small number of viewers allowed in at any one time, it’s an intimate and very special 33 minute experience. Goulish, macabre, funny and pedantic all at once, its construction is flawless - a perfect integration of action, light, space, character and movement. 

Conceived by Michelle Heaven, its inspiration is old films, and that is essentially what it feels like - a silent movie come to life.  It is a work that audiences literally enter into. A black box contains a seating booth opposite a square-framed, deep stage. While viewers are intimate with the action, they are equally far away, as visual distance is constantly morphed and distorted through the immaculate design of Ben Cobham from Bluebottle that sharply magnifies and shrinks forms. 
Michelle Heaven. Disagreeable Object. 
And who would have thought that the humble green pea could be the catalyst for so much activity? It’s a compulsive cat and mouse game between the diminutive Heaven and the hulking Brain Lucas who taunt and torment each other in a quest for more of the green stuff. They are ideal foils - She - tiny body in gothic black dress with huge bustle, emphasising an especially round derriere. He - a lumbering, Lurch-like giant in dark suit, his bald head and pale hound dog face almost too large for his blocky body. 

Shadow play and lighting highlight the size descrepancy between Heaven and Lucas to the extreme. Spatial depth is constantly toyed with - Sometimes things are flat, other times, deep and narrow. The opening image of Heaven hunched in a tiny chair, manically munching on a pod of peas is intensely odd. It later becomes doubly-strange when the barreling Lucas sits in the same kid-size chair - his massive knees tucked up into his chin, his face resting on his thighs. Disagreeable Object is chock-full of these sort of set-ups where visual design convolutes and extends the figures while the sound design (by Bill McDonald) emphasises every teeny-tiny action. Heaven washes her hands under a faucet, meticulously rubbing her hands as she stretches forward her torso in a crisp silhouette that makes her body look much taller than it is. Sounds of dripping water accompany her every shuffle. Lucas loudly gulps tiny peas and physicalises them ricocheting through his torso. 

Only seldomly do the pair break out into short frenzies of choreographed dance steps and these serve to emphasis the game of deception and tease at play. 
Disagreeable Object is a rigorous concept piece that requires meticulous attention to detail and Heaven and Lucas's total ability to embody their characters. The whole work never, not even for a second, loses its focus. The duo's command performances combined with the interplay of Cobham's design and  McDonald's rustles, creaks and scuffles makes Disagreeable Object a picture-perfect treat. 

It's not a sugary sweet morsel, but it is surprisingly appetizing. Hilariously unusual, anachronistic and ever-so enticing, Disagreeable Object might come back for fourths if we ask with a pretty please. 
Disagreeable Object
16 - 19 March 2011
Meat Market, Arts House

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