Happy As Larry

Happy as larryShaun Parker and Company. Dunstan Playhouse Adelaide. 14 Aug 2013

To begin with, there are massed balloons in the foyer of the Dunstan Playhouse and free programs. A good start to enjoying this Sydney based award winning contemporary dance companyʼs invigorating performance!

The stage is hidden by a large blackboard on which a man is drawing countless rows of abstracted human shapes . . . us, him, and the other eight gifted young dancers. The chalk man presses a chalk switch and presto, the stage lights come up. He presses another chalk switch and a loud driving drum beat soundtrack begins and doesnʼt stop morphing and supporting the dancers until the end of the performance seventy-five minutes later.

Under a canopy of coloured balloons this inventive performance explores aspects of the Enneagram: ʻa psychological system that maps nine personality traits: The Perfectionist, the Giver, The Performer, The Tragic Romantic, The Observer, The Devilʼs Advocate, The Optimist, The Boss, The Mediatorʼ. There is nothing dry about this interpretation, but via ballet, breakdance, roller-skating, and athletic contemporary dance, the dancers become props for each other; wall posers; wall jumpers; and above all revealers of the nine personality traits that is the vehicle for the performance.

Happy as Larry is light hearted, funny, serious, tense, playful, and ever changing. There is a serious message: ʻLife is not all about floating coloured balloons. Sometimes we fall back to earth. Pick yourself up and continue lifeʼs journeyʼ.

Through the direction and choreography of company founder, Shaun Parker, the nine equally matched dancers explore their given personality traits in solo or interactively with the rest of the ensemble. Designer Adam Gardnir provides a simple but memorable setting with a balloon canopy and a huge revolving double sided chalk board. Lighting designer Luiz Pampolha provides a surprisingly complex lighting design that brings dramatic highlighting to this energetic performance.

Co-composers Nick Wales and Bree Van Reyk have developed a continuously morphing score that is inseparable from the dance element (and which has also been recorded and can be downloaded via iTunes). The dancers are athletic, balletic, gymnastic and each an integral part of the ensemble. The co-operative feats of balance, strength, counter point and dramatic interaction really do need to be seen to be believed; impressive, beautiful, and very agile.

This review would not be complete without making mention of the tenth performer . . . the massive double sided blackboard that serves as a message, image, graffiti board; a wall and body posing surface through the entire performance. When it is in full use, revolving 360 degrees, being written on, climbed on, posed on, skated around, lunged at and jumped from a whole new visual subtext is triggered.

By the end of the performance, the black board is covered with coloured chalk, the stage floor of the Dunstan Playhouse has been chalked, the nine dancers are well and truly chalked. The audience has been treated to a spectacular piece of contemporary dance theatre that is light, heavy, thought
provoking, and most of all, revealing of just what the human body is capable of doing in the name of dance. Happy As Larry? In the blackboard words at the start of the show: “That was fun”.

Martin Christmas

When: 14 to 17 Aug
Where: Dunstan Playhouse
Bookings: bass.net.au